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Skadden, Freshfields and Davis Polk take the lead as blockbuster Pfizer/AstraZeneca deal gears up again

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Davis Polk & Wardwell have all landed lead roles advising Pfizer and AstraZeneca as talks over a potential $100bn merger resurface.

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has confirmed it has approached AstraZeneca – the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company headquartered in London – for the second time on 26 April about its continued interest in a combination.

The interest follows Pfizer’s preliminary proposal on 5 January, which was a combination of cash and shares worth £46.61 per AstraZeneca share, worth around £58.8bn in total. AstraZeneca rejected the bid, claiming it ‘very significantly undervalued AstraZeneca and its prospects’.

Skadden Arps is advising Pfizer on US and UK matters, led by corporate partners Michael Hatchard and Scott Hopkins in London, while partner Tim Sanders is advising on tax. Corporate partners Paul Schnell, Sean Doyle and Michael Chitwood are advising out of the US, alongside tax partner Sally Thurston and competition partner Sharis Pozen.

Freshfields corporate partner and London managing partner Julian Long is advising AstraZeneca, alongside Davis Polk corporate partner Paul Kingsley in Manhattan who, like Long, has advised the drug company on significant corporate mandates in the past.

Pfizer has seen some significant changes to its in-house legal offering in recent months, with news in March that chief counsel and assistant general counsel Ellen Rosenthal was leaving, shortly after the departure of general counsel Amy Schulman.

Both were instrumental in setting up the Pfizer Legal Alliance in 2009, which sees 19 law firms – including Skadden Arps, Clifford Chance and DLA Piper – handle the lion’s share of Pfizer’s legal work on a flat-fee structure, in a still rare example of a move entirely away from the billable hour.

Talks of the potential merger between Pfizer and AstraZeneca first emerged in November last year. A spokesperson at AstraZeneca confirmed Pfizer has 28 days to put forward a formal proposal.