Legal Business

$100bn of M&A deals announced as Global 100 firms advise on Suntory, Time Warner and Amec bids

$100bn of M&A deals announced as Global 100 firms advise on Suntory, Time Warner and Amec bids

Last year’s growth in confidence in the corporate sector together with fundraising activity among a number of large private equity houses has culminated in deals totaling almost $100bn being announced yesterday (13 January), with one of the largest being Japanese investment firm Suntory’s $16bn offer for Beam, throwing up heavyweight roles for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Sidley Austin.

For Suntory, which will acquire all of Beam’s shares for $83.50 per share, Cleary Gottlieb is being led by corporate partners Paul Shim and Benet O’Reilly, with the team also including New York-based finance partner Meme Peponis; competition partners Mark Nelson (Washington); and Robbert Snelders (Brussels). The firm also advised Suntory on IP, tax, environmental and executive compensation and employee benefits.

Beam is being advised by a team from top 15 global firm Sidley Austin, led by Chicago-based M&A partners Tom Cole and Beth Flaming.

The deal, which has the unanimous backing of each companies’ board of directors but is subject to regulatory approval, will see Suntory acquire Beam’s famous brand alcoholic beverages, including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek bourbons, Teacher’s and Laphroaig Scotch whiskies. This will add to Suntory’s own portfolio of Japanese whiskies, including Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki, and Kakubin. If the deal goes through it will make Suntory the world’s third largest maker of distilled drinks.

The deal follows Suntory’s £1.35bn acquisition of soft drink brands Lucazade and Ribena from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in September last year, when Clifford Chance advised the Japanese investment company and Allen & Overy advised GSK.

Other deals announced this week include Charter Communications’ $61bn offer for Time Warner Cable, throwing up heavyweight roles for Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz and Kirkland & Ellis for Charter.

Time Warner, which is being advised by Paul Weiss Rifkand Wharton & Garrison, has rejected the offer, which is the biggest unsolicited takeover bid since 2008, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, two UK magic circle firms are facing off in another major transaction. Linklaters is advising Amec on the $3.2bn acquisition of its Swiss rival Foster Wheeler, led by corporate finance partner Shane Griffin, alongside fellow corporate partner Aedamar Comiskey. Scott Sonnenblick and Tom Shropshire are advising on US law aspects of the deal from New York and London respectively, while John Tucker and Simon Pritchard are providing advice on finance and antitrust.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is representing Foster Wheeler, with London co-head of M&A Simon Marchant leading the team alongside US corporate practice head Matthew Herman.

News of these deals come despite reports that M&A transactions were down overall globally in 2013. However, Weil, Gotshal & Manges equity capital markets and M&A partner Peter King told Legal Business: ‘The market has been building up since the second half of last year and is starting to produce more deals. There’s more confidence at  boardroom level and private equity has been active throughout.

‘But there is always an element of fragility in these things, and any unexpected events could disrupt the market.’

Legal Business

Asia Round-up: Linklaters and Sidley Austin hire in Hong Kong and Singapore while DLA suffers another Singapore exit

Asia Round-up: Linklaters and Sidley Austin hire in Hong Kong and Singapore while DLA suffers another Singapore exit

Magic circle lateral hires still happen comparatively infrequently but if they do happen, these days it’s quite often in Asia. The past week has seen Linklaters appoint David Kidd of his own eponymous firm as a partner to lead its pan-Asian restructuring and insolvency practice. He will join the firm in October and be based in Hong Kong. Linklaters has been involved in high profile insolvencies such as MF Global and Lehman Brothers and Stuart Salt, Linklaters regional managing partner for Asia, said: ‘David is one of the leading R&I lawyers in the region and we are excited about further developing this side of our business with him.’

In Singapore Sidley Austin continues its drive to forge a substantial funds practice as former colleagues of Han Ming Ho, co-head of the firm’s Asia investment funds practice, come across to the US firm from Clifford Chance. Ho is joined by Josephine Law, who will serve as counsel, senior associate, Joel Seow and associate Reina Chua, significantly boosting the firms fund capabilities.

‘Han Ming and his team are joining Sidley at an exciting time, as the interplay between the Singapore and Hong Kong markets continues to shape the funds industry in this region,’ said Thomas Albrecht, managing partner for Asia Pacific.

Elsewhere Duane Morris & Selvam has also expanded its Asian operations by opening an office in Myanmar, following Singapore heavyweight Rajah & Tann, which opened there in March. The firm will serve clients on a range of business and investment matters including tax, regulatory issues, reporting requirements and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as well as UK Bribery Act issues. This marks the first launch in the country by a US law firm, albeit through its tie up with Singapore’s Selvam in 2010.

‘Myanmar presents significant opportunities for foreign businesses, and our new presence there will allow us to provide on the ground, high quality counsel to foreign and domestic businesses seeking to seize those opportunities while minimizing the inherent risks,’ said Duane Morris chairman and chief executive, John Soroko.

The office will be run by Duane Morris’ current managing director in Singapore, Krishna Ramachandra. Benjamin Kheng, an associate director of Duane Morris in Singapore, will be a partner in Myanmar. In total the office will have ten fee earners.

‘Our team has built a strong relationship with Myanmar and its government, as a result of working closely with the Attorney General’s office for many years. This is a natural next step for us,’ said Ramachandra.

However, DLA Piper’s Asia fall out continues, as Will Harrison, head of the firm’s insurance practice in Hong Kong, moves into legal consulting. Having joined from Clifford Chance as a senior associate in 2007, he built a strong practice focusing on financial lines and speciality insurance, including directors and officers liability, professional indemnity and acting as defence counsel for insurers and insured. One of the most high profile cases he worked on was the collapse of Barings Bank and the resulting audit negligence litigation in London.

DLA has suffered a number of senior partner departures in the region, including Matthew Glynn, former managing partner of the firm’s Singapore office and head of its Asia intellectual property and technology group, who gave in his notice earlier this month. This followed on from the departure of another former Singapore managing partner, Martin David, who left for Ince & Co just a few months previously, and Justin Jagger, former co-chair of the firm’s global arbitration group and leader of its South East Asia disputes, who left for local Singapore firm Stamford Law last August.

Legal Business

Latham, Sidley and Skadden lead the US pack in Legal 500 research

Latham, Sidley and Skadden lead the US pack in Legal 500 research

Often hailed as one of the greatest US success stories of the last 25 years, new research underlines the elevated position Latham & Watkins has attained in the world’s largest legal market.

The Legal 500 United States 2013 edition shows Latham as the highest ranked law firm judged by the total number of recommendations, putting the Los Angeles-bred giant ahead of a string of top Wall Street firms.

The 600-partner firm received recommendations in 55 practice areas. Recommendations are calculated by the research team of The Legal 500 based on client and peer feedback and the submissions of the firms themselves, and take into account multiple factors including track record in winning cases, the complexity of deals and innovation. Latham received 20 top-tier recommendations, including listings in areas such as capital markets (equity offerings and high-yield debt offerings), project finance (lenders and sponsors), energy (renewable and transactions) and telecoms and broadcast (regulatory and transactional).

Legal Business

Asia Round-up: Singapore in focus for Minter Ellison, Sidley Austin and Taylor Wessing

Asia Round-up: Singapore in focus for Minter Ellison, Sidley Austin and Taylor Wessing

The decline in Singapore M&A has seemingly done little to dampen the enthusiasm of international firms to launch or build their practices in the region.

Sidley Austin – which despite having been in Singapore since 1982, has just 10 lawyers in the region and to date has not had the same impact as top-tier banking & finance and corporate Magic Circle rivals Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters Singapore – has benefited from Vinson & Elkins recent decision to close its office in Shanghai, by hiring energy partner Tju Liang Chua.

Chua, who is from Singapore and qualified to advise on both local and US law, is set to join the top 15 Global 100 firm’s energy practice in the coming weeks.

Sidley Austin has been building its presence in the region with hires including Clifford Chance local funds partner Han Ming Ho and its longevity and commitment to the region reaped significant rewards in February, as the firm was one of only a handful to gain a qualifying foreign law practice (QFLP) license, allowing them to practice certain types of Singaporean law, with Chua an obvious person to drive this initiative.

‘Tju Liang’s arrival follows closely that of energy partner Tom Deegan in Hong Kong. He joins an expanding energy team in the region, which is able to offer clients in Asia a full array of energy-related legal services, particularly because it is fully integrated with our Houston colleagues and elsewhere in the U.S’ said Thomas Albrecht, managing partner of Sidley Austin in the Asia Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing’s Singapore office, known locally as RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, has secured the hire of Morgan Stanley’s former head of compliance, Nizam Ismail, as partner to head up the firm’s regional compliance solutions practice. RHTLaw Compliance Solutions is a dedicated financial services compliance consultancy and solutions provider.

Ismail has 20 years of experience working in the financial services industry, including working with some of the world’s leading investment banks such as the now defunct Lehman Brothers and Citigroup. He was also at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and worked on capital markets reform, including the enactment of the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act.

Taylor Wessing has three offices in Asia and is known to be considering its options in relation to a further office opening in Hong Kong.

Elsewhere, one of the last of Australia’s big six firms not to have merged, Minter Ellison is closely considering opening a Singapore office, giving the firm added strength in Asia on top of its existing offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as the firm seeks to compensate for declining revenues in the depressed Australian market.

‘We’re considering establishing a foreign law office in Singapore to serve our clients across Southeast Asia – we already do a significant amount of work in Southeast Asia for Singapore-based and other regional clients – but no decision has been made yet regarding this,’ a spokesperson for the firm told Legal Business.

Other firms to have ramped up in Singapore this year include Stephenson Harwood, after agreeing a formal association with local firm Virtus Law.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Clutch of firms including Bird & Bird, Dentons and Sidley make key hires

The lateral hires market has over the past week continued to defy an overall drop in activity as Bird & Bird, DWF, Dentons, Sidley Austin and Baker & McKenzie all made strategic hires.

Late last week 234-partner Bird & Bird was joined by Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) franchising partners Graeme Payne and Victoria Hobbs – a not unexpected move after the recent hire of high profile FFW IP and IT head Mark Abell, with whom the duo worked on a number of mandates and were widely tipped to follow. Last year the pair advised luxury shirt brand Thomas Pink on a franchise deal leading to the opening of stores across India.

David Kerr, CEO of Bird & Bird said: ‘There are clear synergies between the nature and type of clients that they have worked for and Bird & Bird’s areas of industry and practice focus.’

Meanwhile in the North of England, acquisitive DWF on 9 May announced the recruitment of a five-partner team from Eversheds.

The fast-expanding firm took on a 12-strong Newcastle real estate team led by partners Adam Heather, Gavin Jackson, Mitch Brown and former Eversheds Newcastle head Adrian Stanley. Brown was Eversheds head of affordable housing and has taken up the same position at DWF.

Fifth partner, Eversheds head of affordable housing litigation, Suzanne Gregson, will join DWF’s Manchester office.

The new hires bolster DWF’s 218-strong national real estate team as the firm eyes top 20 UK law firm status post the wholesale acquisition of Cobbetts in February, which placed it firmly in the top 25. Nic Crocker, national head of real estate at DWF, said: “These individuals bring with them a wealth of experience across a number of key areas, and will provide invaluable support to the team as it continues its push towards top 20 firm status and beyond.”

Across the continent, Dentons is forecasting growth in Germany and has announced its first lateral hires since the tripartite merger with Paris-founded Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain in March. Frankfurt partners Michael Graf and Robert Bastian joined from Haarmann on 1 May. Graf, who has experience advising multinational enterprises and private equity funds on international tax law, has joined the firm’s German tax practice group, while Bastian, who specialises in private equity law and M&A, has joined the German private equity group.

Andreas Ziegenhagen, managing partner for Germany, said: ‘Their arrival marks an important step for our German teams, especially in the context of the Dentons combination, as we will be able to increase the quality of our cooperation both in Germany and globally. The signs point towards growth in Germany and I am confident that Michael and Robert will take advantage of the growing opportunities here.’

Elsewhere, activity in Asia continues apace where US firm Sidley Austin has ramped up its Singapore practice with the hire of Morgan Lewis & Bockius M&A partner Gregory Salathé. The firm became one of four international outfits to be granted a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) license in February this year, allowing it to advise on local law.

Salathé, who focuses on Asia-based cross-border M&A deals, funds and private equity, is an important strategic hire for the firm, which recently announced it was to re-launch its funds practice in Singapore with the hire of Clifford Chance partner Han Ming Ho.

Asia Pacific managing partner Thomas Albrecht said: ‘Greg has extensive experience representing clients in Asia-related cross-border M&A transactions and understands exceptionally well the myriad issues that private equity and hedge funds face when they make downstream investments in the region.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Baker & McKenzie – now with upwards of 3800 lawyers – has hired DLA Piper life sciences partner, Amanda Turnill to co-chair the firm’s Australian Life Sciences group with partner Ben McLaughlin.

With more than 20 years’ experience as a product liability litigator and regulatory lawyer, Turnill – who was the global co-chair of life sciences at DLA – has advised pharmaceutical, medical technology, biotechnology, and other life sciences companies all over the world.

McLaughlin said: ‘Before becoming a lawyer, Amanda was a registered nurse so she has been able to combine her knowledge of health issues and her interest in the life sciences industry with law. It’s this depth of experience that makes Amanda one of the most highly sought after lawyers in this industry.’

According to Motive Legal Consulting’s London Lateral Hiring Trends Bulletin for January to March 2013, ‘Q1 2013 was the second-worst Q1 for seven years, ‘beaten’ only by the depths of the recession.’


Revolving Doors is a regular round-up of senior legal moves across the globe. To be included please contact