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Paul Weiss, Linklaters and Freshfields alumni lock horns as Kraft Heinz drops $143bn deal for Unilever

In what would have been the second largest M&A deal in history, Unilever has rejected a $143bn takeover approach from Kraft Heinz as Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Linklaters take opposite sides.

Unilever, the company behind brands such as Dove and Ben & Jerry’s, said it had rejected the deal last Friday (17 February) and over the weekend Kraft said it would drop its pursuit for the consumer goods company.

Linklaters won a key mandate on the rejected bid for Anglo-Dutch Unilever. Key advisers for the firm include global consumer goods co-head Paul McNicholl and corporate partner Nick Rumsby.

Paul Weiss is acting for Warren Buffet’s food company. US corporate veteran Scott Barshay is a longtime adviser to Kraft Heinz. He recently arrived from rival Cravath, Swaine & Moore after 25 years, in one of the landmark lateral hires in the New York market.

The bid comes two years after Kraft merged with Heinz in a deal worth $46bn. Barshay had acted for 3G Capital and HJ Heinz on the deal.

Meanwhile, top Magic Circle alumni are acting for the main financial advisers on the deal. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s former rainmaker Mark Rawlinson is acting for Morgan Stanley, the financial adviser to Unilever, opposite former Freshfields colleague Will Lawes, who is acting for Lazard on the Kraft side. Lawes, who was senior parner at the Magic Circle firm moved to the bank in January this year.

Read more on the City’s leading deal teams in the feature: ‘The M&A Report – To have and have not’