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WhatsApp? Weil secures lead role on Facebook’s $16bn acquisition led by 2012 Dewey hire

The first global law firm to open an office in US technology heartland Silicon Valley, Weil Gotshal & Manges has secured the lead role on Facebook’s $16bn acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp, led by high profile 2012 Dewey & LeBoeuf lateral hire Keith Flaum.

Flaum, an M&A partner who joined Weil’s Silicon Valley office as part of a highly-rated five-partner technology team in the same month as Dewey’s spectacular collapse in May 2012, led a team opposite Fenwick & West for WhatsApp.

Fenwick & West’s team was led by corporate partners Sayre Stevick, Andrew Luh and Shawn Lampron, based in Mountain View, California.

Weil last year acted for Facebook in its acquisition of cloud-based software developer Parse, and in its acquisition of Microsoft Corp.’s Atlas online advertising platform for an undisclosed sum.

WhatsApp, which has 450 million users around the world who pay a flat fee of $1 to use its mobile messaging service, with the first year going for free, is Facebook’s largest acquisition to date and the biggest corporate deal so far this year.

Facebook confirmed yesterday (19 February) that it has agreed to buy the social media company for $4bn in cash and $12bn in stock, plus $3bn in restricted stock units that will be granted to WhatsApp employees and founders.

New York boutique investment bank Allen & Company advised Facebook on the acquisition, while Morgan Stanley advised WhatsApp.

The advisers could look to earn more than $80million for their work combined, according to estimates from US-based Freeman Consulting Services.

In an announcement on its website, WhatsApp, which was founded by two former Yahoo engineers in 2009 and now employs 55 people, said it would ‘remain autonomous and operate independently’ of Facebook, promising that it would remain ad-less.

In Facebook’s own announcement, the now 10-year old social network said that in buying WhatsApp, which is growing faster than Twitter and other social media services, it gains access to customers who prefer ‘communicating with all of your contacts and small groups of people’ rather than sharing information more widely.

In 2012, Facebook paid $1bn for photo-sharing service, Instagram, and made a $3bn bid, which was declined, for picture messaging service Snapchat late last year.