Legal Business

Firm focus: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Firm focus: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

London headcount: 144 lawyers, 28 partners
Lawyer headcount change since 2014: 15% (-7% partners)
London head: Pranav Trivedi
Office specialities: M&A, arbitration, litigation and white collar

Legal Business

Life During Law: Scott Simpson

Life During Law: Scott Simpson

We had Skadden’s 30th anniversary party at Kensington Palace. Very cool. I’ve been here most of those 30 years.

I took a year and a half off between high school and college in the States. I spent most of my youth surfing and had a dream to finish high school in Hawaii.

Legal Business

Hello Newman: Milbank loses restructuring partner to Skadden’s relative City hiring spree

Hello Newman: Milbank loses restructuring partner to Skadden’s relative City hiring spree

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom continues to turn heads with its uncharacteristic hiring spree in London, this time in the form of Milbank restructuring partner Peter Newman.

A firm not famed for aggressive recruitment drives, the move is notable for being Skadden’s third London lateral recruit within the last six months, after it benefited from Allen & Overy’s failed US merger to add corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton last September.

Those hires were considered the biggest coup for Skadden’s European corporate practice since that of private equity partner Richard Youle from White & Case in 2017.

A Milbank ‘lifer’, Newman advises companies, creditors and stakeholders on cross-border restructurings, distressed acquisitions and financings. He will join Skadden’s corporate restructuring team.

Recent work highlights include advising new lenders to TORM A/S, the Danish shipping company on a $1.5bn restructuring and merger, the junior lender coordinating committee of General Healthcare Group on its £2.1bn restructuring and the lenders of Spanish clothing retailer Cortefiel on a €1.3bn restructuring.

Organic growth over the last year at Skadden’s Canary Wharf office has also seen M&A lawyer Denis Klimentchenko promoted to partner.

Scott Simpson, co-head of Skadden’s global transactions practice, said: ‘We continue to invest in the growth of our European platform through strategic hires. Peter’s experience in financial restructuring, with a particular focus on advising funds on their distressed investments, will deepen our bench in this important area and enhance the service we provide to our clients.’

Legal Business

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Double blow for Magic Circle as US leaders Weil and Skadden secure M&A veterans

Leading US firms continue to dominate the London recruitment market with significant appointments from the Magic Circle, as Weil, Gotshal & Manges hired Linklaters’ highly-rated M&A partner David Avery-Gee (pictured) shortly after Allen & Overy (A&O) saw corporate pair Simon Toms and George Knighton jump ship to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The hire of Avery-Gee is a coup for Weil, which has struggled against more potent US rivals in recent years in London. The office has had setbacks in corporate, including the loss of London managing partner Mike Francies’ protégé Samantha McGonigle, who left after 13 years to co-found a growth fund in February.

Legal Business

Bad timing – A&O loses M&A duo to Skadden following failed US merger talks

Bad timing – A&O loses M&A duo to Skadden following failed US merger talks

Allen & Overy has lost two well-respected London corporate partners to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom just days after the magic circle firm confirmed the collapse of its merger talks with US firm O’Melveny & Myers.

Simon Toms and George Knighton have quit A&O, inflicting a considerable hit on its M&A capabilities ten days after it announced it was calling it a day on its attempts to tie up with O’Melveny after more than a year of talks.

Toms counts among his clients 21st Century Fox, which he advised in its bid to acquire European satellite broadcaster Sky, HP and Cerberus Capital Management, while Knighton recently acted on the £1.7bn sale of Virgin Money to CYBG.

The departures to a US outfit carry a particularly high symbolic value at a time when A&O’s leadership has promised to fast-track investment in its US practice as the pressure to strengthen its capabilities Stateside persist.

Meanwhile, this is the biggest coup for Skadden’s European corporate practice since the hire of former Linklaters private equity partner Richard Youle from White & Case in 2017.

A&O and Skadden declined to comment.

Legal Business

Deal watch: Seats at the table for Travers, Skadden and Gateley as Pret acquires EAT and Oliver’s chain collapses

Deal watch: Seats at the table for Travers, Skadden and Gateley as Pret acquires EAT and Oliver’s chain collapses

Two opposite developments in the UK high street have seen City and US firms advise as food chain Pret A Manger acquired rival Eat and high-profile British chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant business went into administration.

Also keeping City insolvency practitioners busy was the news today (22 May) that British Steel has been put into compulsory liquidation.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom advised Pret as it agreed to acquire all of Eat’s 94 shops for an undisclosed sum, with plans to turn most into ‘Veggie Prets’.

The US firm’s team was led by London corporate partners Richard Youle, Katja Butler and Linda Davies. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Alex Potter is advising Pret on antitrust.

On the other side of the table, Travers Smith’s head of private equity and financial sponsors Paul Dolman led the team advising Ardian, Horizon Capital and the other selling shareholders of Eat.

‘I acted for Horizon when they acquired Eat [in 2011] and we have acted for them ever since, so we were the logical people to advise on the sale,’ Dolman told Legal Business. ‘Travers has in-depth expertise in this sector.’

The deal sees Travers’ and Pret’s paths cross again after the City firm advised previous owner Bridgepoint on the £1.5bn sale of the food chain to JAB Holding Company one year ago, with a team including Dolman and private equity partner Ian Shawyer.

Under Bridgepoint’s ownership the company, founded in London in 1986, expanded its presence in the UK and US, and launched in France, China, Dubai and Singapore, quadrupling its revenues to £879m. It now counts over 500 shops in nine countries.

Eat was founded in 1996 and bought by Horizon in 2011 with plans to build hundreds of shops. But it has struggled in recent years and reported pre-tax losses of £17.2m in the year to end of June 2018.

Meanwhile, Daniel French, an insolvency partner at listed firm Gateley, is leading the team acting alongside administrator KPMG after Oliver’s business became the latest victim amid difficult times for the UK high street.

Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group will see 22 of the 25 eateries it operates close, resulting in 1,000 job losses.

This is the second prominent high-street insolvency Gateley has acted on this year. The firm also advised KPMG on the administration of Patisserie Valerie in January.

Elsewhere, Clifford Chance (CC)’s insolvency team is advising as British Steele entered compulsory liquidation, putting its 5,000 employees at risk of redundancy.

The government’s official receiver has taken control of the company and together with Big Four accountancy firm EY is looking for a buyer, while it continues to trade normally.

CC’s restructuring head Philip Hertz and partner Iain White are leading the team advising on the process.

The Magic Circle firm was previously among the advisers in one of the largest UK insolvencies to hit the construction industry in recent years, when construction giant Carillion collapsed in January last year.

Legal Business

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

Allen & Overy has promoted 14 London partners amid a scaled up 34-strong global round while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has promoted its first City partner in three years.

The Magic Circle firm made heavier investment in new partners than last year and also significantly improved the promotion of women, minting eight females – equal to 24% of the newest partners – of which two are part-time. Last year, A&O made up only two women in its 20-strong round, having the same month vowed to redouble its diversity efforts.

Notably, Shruti Ajitsaria, the head of its tech innovation space Fuse, was promoted to partner.

Ajitsaria said: ‘After training at A&O, I think it’s fair to say I have taken a slightly alternative career path. The success of Fuse is testament to the spirit of innovation which runs throughout the firm – from management to our trainees and across our global offices.’

Jonathan Brayne, chairman of Fuse, added: ‘Shruti has been fundamental to the highly successful launch and operation of Fuse, A&O’s tech innovation space.  I’m confident she will take it to another level as a partner and will find new ways of keeping Fuse – and with it Allen & Overy – in the vanguard of legal market tech innovation.’

The firm has a target of having 30% female partner candidates by 2021 with a view to having 30% women in its partnership overall. The other London promotions saw five made up in banking, four in corporate, two in international capital markets (ICM) and two in litigation.

Skadden, meanwhile, has promoted Denis Klimentchenko from counsel to partner for its City M&A bench, a rare investment for the firm having bypassed London altogether for two-years running.

While a show of support for the London office, the 11-strong global round is scaled back from previous years when 14 were made up in 2018 and 12 were promoted in 2017. Klimentchenko is the first promotion in London since Sandro de Bernardini was minted to Skadden’s City M&A team back in 2016.


The full list of A&O partner promotions:

Arnold Keizer, litigation, Amsterdam

Hilde Van der Baan, litigation, Amsterdam

Sarah Wilson, banking, Bangkok

Thales Mertens, litigation, Brussels

Kyle Nevin, banking, Dubai

Anthony Traboulsi, banking, Dubai

Zeid Qursha, corporate, Dubai

Tina LeDinh, corporate, Ho Chi Minh City

Oleg Khomenko, banking, London

Catherine Lang-Anderson, banking, London

Nick Lister, banking, London

Ed Moser, banking, London

Jodi Norman, banking, London

Michael Bloch, corporate, London

Kate McInerney, corporate, London

Hugh Robinson, corporate, London

William Samengo-Turner, corporate, London

Shruti Ajitsaria, Fuse, London

Peter Crossan, ICM, London

Suril Patel, ICM, London

Brandon O’Neil, litigation, London

Robbie Sinclair, litigation, London

Yannick Arbaut, banking, Luxembourg

Jacques Graas, corporate, Luxembourg

Paul Peporte, ICM, Luxembourg

Santiago de Vicente, real estate, Madrid

Paolo Nastasi, corporate, Milan

Bulat Zhambalnimbuev, corporate, Moscow

Magnus Mueller, tax, Munich

Xavier Jancène, real estate, Paris

Aloysius Tan, ICM, Singapore

Tokutaka Ito, corporate, Tokyo

Bartosz Merczynski, litigation, Warsaw

Maura Rezendes, corporate, Washington DC


The full list of Skadden partner promotions:

Christopher Barlow, M&A, New York

Julie Cohen, litigation, New York

Elena Coyle, financial institutions, New York

Alec Jarvis, tax, New York

Denis Klimentchenko, M&A, London

Joseph Larkin, litigation/corporate restructuring, Wilmington

Christopher Murphy, tax controversy, Palo Alto

Alisha Nanda, litigation, Boston

Christine Okike, corporate restructuring, New York

Paloma Wang, capital markets, Hong Kong

Geoffrey Wyatt, mass torts, insurance & consumer litigation, Washington DC

Legal Business

US firms deployed on $43bn Worldpay takeover as Freshfields scores lead on major bank merger

US firms deployed on $43bn Worldpay takeover as Freshfields scores lead on major bank merger

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is advising payment processor Worldpay on a proposed $43bn takeover offer by financial technology company FIS, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has been drafted in to act for Deutsche Bank on merger talks with rival Commerzbank.

The deal, announced yesterday (18 March), will see Worldpay shareholders receive $11 in cash for each of their shares. The merger gives Worldpay an enterprise value of around $43bn, including its debt, which Florida-based FIS expects to refinance.

In a joint statement, the companies said the combination greatly enhances FIS’ payment offering and ‘significantly increases Worldpay’s distribution footprint’.

The Skadden team advising Worldpay consists of New York partners Peter Atkins, David Ingles, Sven Mickisch, Joseph Penko and London-based partner Scott Hopkins. Willkie Farr & Gallagher was enlisted to advise FIS on the deal, with a team led by US partners Robert Rachofsky and Adam Turteltaub, and in the UK by Jennifer Tait and Henrietta de Salis.

It is the second major merger Worldpay has been subject to in under two years: in September 2017 it was bought by Vantiv, creating a company with a combined value of £22.2bn. Skadden was involved that time too, assisting the Cincinnati-based Vantiv, while Allen & Overy advised Worldpay.

Later this year, Worldpay general counsel (GC) Ruwan de Soyza is set to leave for a GC and executive committee role at a FTSE 100 technology company.

Meanwhile, Freshfields and German firm Hengeler Mueller have landed roles as Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank announced last Sunday (17 March) they were in merger discussions. Nevertheless, the rival banks warned ‘there is no certainty that any transaction will occur.’

In January 2016, Freshfields advised Deutsche Bank as it sold ¥25.7bn of its Chinese assets.

Hengeler Mueller is advising Commerzbank, with a team consisting of partners Johannes Adolff, Hartwin Bungert, Daniela Favoccia, Dirk Bliesener, Lucina Berger and Martin Klein.

Legal Business

Deal watch: Slaughters leads on Wonga collapse and joins Skadden, Ashurst and CC on £3.9bn Costa deal

Deal watch: Slaughters leads on Wonga collapse and joins Skadden, Ashurst and CC on £3.9bn Costa deal

Slaughter and May has landed key roles on the high-profile collapse of payday lender Wonga and Coca-Cola’s £3.9bn acquisition of national coffee house Costa, joined by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & FlomClifford Chance (CC) and Ashurst.

The demise of Wonga, the UK’s largest payday lender, was confirmed yesterday (30 August) amidst a flood of compensation claims as the government cranks up the pressure on companies offering high-cost, short-term loans.

Wonga’s overseas businesses will continue to trade, while the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) supervises Wonga in seeking fair treatment of customers. The UK business is not accepting any new loan applications.

Slaughters is advising the company with a team consisting of head of corporate, Andy Ryde, and restructuring and insolvency partners Ian Johnson and Tom Vickers. The Magic Circle firm is also expected to advise the administrators, Grant Thornton.

‘It’s still the very early stages,’ Johnson told Legal Business. ‘I think in this case it’s business-specific issues: they had a number of legacy issues which have led us to where we are now.’

Elsewhere, Slaughters also had a key role in Coca-Cola’s acquisition of the largest coffee company in the UK, Costa. Upon completion, Coca-Cola will acquire nearly 4,000 Costa outlets across the country as it expands its coffee portfolio, which already includes the Georgia brand in Japan among others globally.

Slaughters advised Costa’s owner Whitbread, a long-standing client of the firm. Its team includes corporate partners Martin Hattrell and Simon Nicholls, IP partner Duncan Blaikie, tax partner Mike Lane, real estate partner Jane Edwarde, pensions and employment partners Jonathan Fenn and Phil Linnard, competition partner Anna Lyle-Smythe and finance partner Matthew Tobin.

CC partners Robert Crothers and Gareth Camp advised Coca-Cola on the corporate elements of the deal. Skadden, meanwhile, fielded a team led by London-based tax partner Alex Jupp, with assistance from New York partners David Rievman and Chase Wink, in advising Coca-Cola on the tax aspects of the deal.

Coca-Cola president and chief executive James Quincey commented: ‘Hot beverages is one of the few segments of the total beverage landscape where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand. Costa gives us access to this market with a strong coffee platform.’

Legal Business

Deal View: Life after Hatchard – does Skadden hunger to take its peerless M&A team to the next level?

Deal View: Life after Hatchard – does Skadden hunger to take its peerless M&A team to the next level?

‘Theirs is the biggest succession issue faced by any firm in the City,’ says one Magic Circle partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s prospects, following the retirement of veteran dealmaker Michael Hatchard (pictured right) at the end of last year.

The widely-admired Hatchard did much to make Skadden a US trailblazer in public M&A work in Europe. Though leveraged finance hogs the headlines these days, Hatchard and Skadden were still the competitive forces most cited by top M&A partners at London rivals. Having moved from Theodore Goddard in 1994, Hatchard (who remains a consultant to Skadden) was one of the most successful transfers ever in City law.

‘Michael is urbane, charming and clever, while being no-nonsense,’ gushes one Herbert Smith Freehills partner. ‘The epitome of an English M&A lawyer – he’s exactly the person you’d want on a pitch.’

Dwelling on the man’s deal highlights in any length would require a longer article, but representative standouts include advising Pfizer on a $69bn bid for AstraZeneca, advising Colfax Corporation on its $2.4bn acquisition of Charter International and the 2015 work on Ball Corporation’s acquisition of Rexam for £4.3bn.

Still, many question why a Wall Street institution with such a strong M&A heritage has not built more on that early progress. Yes, Mergermarket’s UK M&A league tables place Skadden at number three by deal value, having advised on $99bn of transactions over 27 deals in 2017, more than twice the ranked value of 2016. But such benchmarks are volatile and invariably inflate the role of American counsel in substantive European deal work.

The UK figures were bolstered, advising Cincinnati-based Vantiv on its £9bn acquisition of UK-listed payment processor Worldpay, with a team featuring London partners Scott Hopkins and Linda Davies.

You can question – and some do – if Skadden has enough depth to its ten-partner City M&A bench, which includes elder statesman Scott Simpson (pictured left), Lorenzo Corte, Sandro de Bernardini, Hilary Foulkes, Pranav Trivedi, Robert Stirling, Richard Youle and Katja Butler.

De Bernardini was the last internal promotion back in 2016, while the rare lateral hires of White & Case dealmaker Youle along with Butler last year brought in an M&A hand with a genuine following and presence.

The debate about how Youle’s buyout business fits into Skadden’s M&A machine has been much rehearsed, but Skadden is bullish given that Youle helped to secure a key role advising Hg Capital, the lead member of the consortium bidding for Norwegian software firm Visma for €4.64bn.

One M&A partner at a rival points to the 2014 hire of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer insurance head Robert Stirling as another significant addition. Stirling was instrumental in sealing a role earlier this year advising UK-listed Phoenix Group on its £3.2bn acquisition of Standard Life Aberdeen’s insurance business.

Simpson, co-head of Skadden’s global transactions practice, comments on life after Hatchard: ‘Michael laid the foundations for us to be the only firm to take on the Magic Circle on UK M&A on a regular basis. Over 20 years he also helped to build out our capabilities in banking, tax, litigation, white-collar crime, regulatory work, funds and employment law. Our strategy remains the same: be the firm of choice in Europe for the most challenging deals.’ And with an M&A tradition as rich as Skadden’s no-one doubts the firm will remain a potent force in the transatlantic deals community.

Yet the glory days of Skadden’s iconoclastic dash under Joseph Flom – when it was the most influential law firm in the corporate legal market – have surely long since passed. And the firm has been wary of expansion since being forced to shed hundreds post-Lehman. Skadden will have to be do more in Europe’s M&A market to be not only respected but once again feared.

See our Life During Law with Skadden’s Richard Youle