Skadden and Jones Day Top M&A Rankings: Business of Law

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP has regained its spot as the law firm advising on the most deals -- in terms of value -- in 2014. And Jones Day advised on the largest number of deals, in a year with a notable resurgence of both large and small transactions.

Deal volume was $3.31 trillion, excluding some high-profile terminated acquisitions like AbbVie Inc.’s proposed inversion deal for Shire Plc. There were 32,628 deals globally, including public and private companies.

These are the findings of Bloomberg’s latest league tables for legal advisers found in Bloomberg’s Global Market M&A Review.

“Telecommunications and media, pharmaceuticals and health care and energy targets accounted for most of the megadeals,” according to the Bloomberg report. “North America was at the center of the surge, with the value of deals for targets there rising 54.55% over 2013. Volumes in Europe and Asia were up about a quarter over 2013.”

Global M&A deal volume rose to $881.41 billion, the highest fourth-quarter volume since 2006, the report said. Annual volume surpassed $3 trillion for the first time since 2007.

Robert Profusek, a partner at Jones Day, said lawyers at his firm worked on 430 deals, about 100 more than last year. “Every day, somewhere in the world, someone was signing a deal,” he said.

Following Skadden

Following Skadden with its 14.6 percent share of deal volume were Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP with 12.9 percent; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP with 12.4 percent; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP with 12.1 percent; Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP with 11.6 percent; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz with 11.5 percent; Latham & Watkins LLP and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, each with 11.0 percent; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP with 9.9 percent; and White & Case LLP with 9.5 percent.

Rounding out the top 20 firms by deal volume are Jones Day, Stikeman Elliott LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Allen & Overy LLP, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Kirkland; Ellis LLP;, Shearman & Sterling LLP; Linklaters LLP; Baker Botts LLP; and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.

Ups and Downs

Working in the transactional space always has its “ups and downs,” Stephen Arcano, a partner at Skadden, said in an interview. He and his partners understand that precise rankings can depend in part on deal serendipity.

Still, he joked, “All is again right with the world” because Skadden had reclaimed the top ranking, up from the eighth spot last year.

Skadden was on top even though several large deals the firm worked on didn’t close and weren’t included in the league table calculations.

The firm, for example, represented Pfizer in its proposed $116 billion inversion deal for U.K.-based AstraZeneca. That deal fell apart after the U.S. signaled its intent to restrict the use of the tax strategy.

Skadden also represented Valeant Pharmaceutical Inc. in its bid for Allergan Inc.

Arcano, practice leader of Skadden’s New York M&A group, said the bid -- in which Valeant teamed with William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management in its unsuccessful pursuit of the Botox maker -- “was among the most interesting transactions” he’s worked on, citing the novel structure and the number of twists and turns in the transaction.

Refocusing Capital

Profusek noted that many companies refocused capital in 2014. The “most interesting day of the year was the day Novartis announced it was selling two big drug lines and buying two others,” he said. That announcement, like Siemen’s decision to exit the European appliance business, exemplified a move to “sell the stuff where your capital isn’t being smartly used and put it where it can be.”

He likened the moves to that of Coca-Cola Co., which bought a 17 percent stake in his client Monster Beverage, the maker of energy drinks, for $2.15 billion. The deal, part of a strategy of taking equity stakes in promising new brands and technologies, included Coke’s exchange of its energy drink business for Monster’s non-energy business, Profusek said.

Following Jones Day’s involvement in 430 deals are Latham & Watkins with 357; Kirkland & Ellis with 345; Allen & Overy with 259; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP with 250; Skadden and Linklaters, each with 246; Baker & McKenzie LLP with 240; Clifford Chance LLP with 224; Weil Gotshal with 223; White & Case with 220; DLA Piper LLP with 218; CMS Legal Services EEIG in Germany with 185; Tokyo-based Mori Hamada & Matsumoto with 183; O’Melveny & Myers LLP with 178; Herbert Smith Freehills LLP with 177; Hogan Lovells with 171; Simpson Thacher with 159; Davis Polk with 158; and Fenwick & West LLP with 156.

Both Arcano and Profusek expect activism to continue to keep the market strong.

As Arcano said, “At the beginning of 2014, I would have been hard pressed to say activism would accelerate because it had been such a big piece of the M&A landscape in 2013. But it did.”

Lateral Moves

Fried Frank Adds Three Partners in New York, One in London

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP is adding four partners to its ranks. Mark Lucas has joined the mergers and acquisitions and private equity practice in New York, and Daniel Oates has joined the same practice in London, while Evan T. Barr will join and Lawrence Gerschwer has joined the firm as partners in the white-collar criminal defense and securities enforcement practice in New York.

Lucas was previously a vice president and associate general counsel at Goldman Sachs, where he covered the merchant banking division, focusing on private equity transactions, including mergers and acquisitions and capital raising activities. He was an associate at Fried Frank from 2004 to 2010.

Oates was previously a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and head of the mergers and acquisitions practice in London. He advises private-equity and corporate clients on multi-jurisdictional transactions. Prior to joining O’Melveny & Myers, Oates was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Barr was previously a partner in the New York office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where he concentrated on white-collar criminal defense and complex regulatory matters.

Gerschwer was previously a partner in the New York office of Morrison & Foerster LLP, also focusing on white-collar criminal and regulatory matters. Earlier in their careers, Barr and Gerschwer had served as assistant U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of New York, where Barr was chief of the major crimes unit.They also worked together in the public corruption unit.

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