A Professional Relationship Shifts With a Personal Question

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A Professional Relationship Shifts With a Personal Question

Timothy Mayopoulos described Heather Russell as “a human Champagne cork in five-inch heels” during their exchange of vows Nov. 21 at the bride’s home in Bronxville, N.Y.

“She’s effervescent,” said Mr. Mayopoulos, 61, the president of Blend, a financial services technology company in San Francisco.

“She’s also beautiful and she’s brilliant and she’s talented,” he said, going on about Ms. Russell, 49, the chief legal officer and corporate secretary of TransUnion, a global information and insights company based in Chicago.

The two met in Charlotte in 2006 when Ms. Russell joined the 1,000-member legal department at Bank of America, which was managed by Mr. Mayopoulos. He said he briefly interviewed her, and saw her only a handful of times until the day he left the company in 2008.

Three years later, Ms. Russell left the company, but kept in touch with Mr. Mayopoulos on occasions via social media. Whenever work took them to the same town, which she said was about once a year, they would meet for drinks.

On one of those occasions, in the fall of 2015, Mr. Mayopoulos, who was then the chief executive of Fannie Mae in Washington, asked Ms. Russell the kind of question he had never asked her before: “How’s your family?”

“We had never really been friends,” Ms. Russell said. “We had just kind of kept up this professional network thing, and then one day, that day, for the very first time, Tim asked me about my family.”

When she told him that she was getting divorced, he revealed that he was also divorcing. Each had two children, a boy and a girl, and suddenly enough in common on which to base a long-distance friendship that turned a romantic corner in July 2016.

That month, Ms. Russell was living in New York and commuting to her job as chief legal officer at the Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank when she went to the bank’s compliance office to state for the record that she was in a relationship with Mr. Mayopoulos.

As a result, Ms. Russell was terminated and her story was in newspapers around the country, including The Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

“I was utterly shocked and confused,” Ms. Russell said. “I was in a relationship with someone else at another company. There was nothing inappropriate in any regard, and absolutely no reason for the termination.” She did not fight the termination and, though she no longer had that job, she did have Mr. Mayopoulos. (He had also reported his relationship with Ms. Russell to Fannie Mae’s compliance department. He was not fired from his job, and departed the company two years later for Blend.)

The couple got engaged over dinner in November 2019 at a restaurant in Lower Manhattan.

“We have so many things in common, including a taste in obscure music,” Mr. Mayopoulos said.

One of their favorite songs is by the indie band, the Damnwells called, “I Will Keep the Bad Things from You.”

“It’s a song about lovers keeping their hearts safe from the world,” Mr. Mayopoulos said.

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