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A class act: Skadden and the industry mourn death of M&A icon Scott Simpson

Skadden’s Scott Simpson, one of the most influential M&A lawyers of his generation, has died suddenly at the age of 65, the firm announced today (30 May).

The news will be a huge blow for Skadden and the industry at large, marking the loss of the firm’s co-head of global transactions and one of the most pioneering deal lawyers ever to operate in the Square Mile.

Skadden born and bred, having been a summer associate in 1981, joining the firm full-time in 1982 and making partner in 1988, Scott’s route into law was somewhat unorthodox.

On graduating high school, he indulged his love of surfing by going to live in a beach house in Hawaii near the big waves. Pragmatism eventually kicked in and he decided he’d better get a university degree and a career.

In 1990, having only been a partner for two years, Scott joined the then office leader, Bruce Buck, for what should have been a two-year sojourn in the new London office. He never left.

Speaking with Legal Business in 2020, Scott quipped of the adventure in his characteristic good humour: ‘People questioned why I left New York for London. Being asked to start the M&A business in Europe sounds dramatic, a wonderful honour the firm was bestowing… I learned two years later the firm asked everyone senior to me and they all said no.’

An enviable career has seen him act on some of the most famous and contentious takeovers in history, including Arcelor’s $33bn merger with Mittal Steel and Gucci’s defence against a hostile takeover attempt by LVMH, a mandate that was to lead to a longstanding relationship with the client.

In 2020, Scott recounted the failed hostile takeover of Gucci as a particular defining moment, calling to mind an era when transactions were both fraught and incredibly exciting. ‘Finally I said: “If we don’t launch the defence, what do you propose?  Since we didn’t have a plan B, he said, “Fuck it. The next day we went into the boardroom and launched and it was one of the most effective takeover devices ever,’ he recalled fondly.

Scott remained an avid surfer and enjoyed shooting, skiing, going to see Chelsea FC and attending Goodwood Revival with his beloved wife Kathleen. Scott also leaves behind his children Caitlin, Victor and Mairead.

Scott was an M&A pioneer but more than that he was a bon viveur, a gentleman and a class act. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, colleagues and friends.