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Wachtell Clinches Top Spot as 2019 Global M&A Adviser

Jan. 2, 2020, 6:35 PM

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz was the top global mergers and acquisitions legal adviser in 2019 based on dollar value, with a combined $585.3 billion in transactions.

The New York City firm worked on 70 deals in 2019, each with an average deal size of $8.4 billion, Bloomberg data show.

Wachtell grabbed 15.7% of the total 2019 deal value market share for global mergers and acquisitions, marking a 6.2% increase compared to 2018. That’s the highest year-over-year change in total deal value market share for any law firm in 2019.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP came in second, with a combined $516.6 billion in transactions spread across 164 deals in 2019.

For the year, Kirkland & Ellis LLP advised on the most deals, a total of 639. Yet the firm still fell behind both Sullivan & Cromwell and Wachtell in terms of total deal value. Kirkland clinched the third ranked spot, with $451 billion in combined transactions in 2019.

The firm’s ability to handle a wide variety of deals is one of its “key strengths,” Kirkland M&A partner Daniel Wolf said. “We have an infrastructure and team that is well-equipped to handle the full range of the M&A market,” Wolf said during a July interview.

Big Deals

Global dealmaking reached $3.7 trillion in 2019, a 4.6% decrease from 2018. The year saw a total of 46,193 transactions globally, with deals averaging $80.8 billion.

Raytheon Co’s $90.2 billion deal with United Technologies Corp, announced in June, was the top valued deal of the year. The merger, which is still pending, is expected to close in 2020. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Wachtell are some of the firms representing United Technologies in the deal. Shearman & Sterling LLP is assisting Raytheon.

Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co.'s $87.6 billion merger with Celgene Corp. is the second highest value deal of 2019. The cross-border pharmaceutical merger closed in November.

Kirkland & Ellis and Mayer Brown LLP were some of the firms to assist Bristol-Myers Squibb in the merger. Celgene was represented by Jones Day, Wachtell, and others.

By Comparison

Sullivan saw a 2.8 percent year-over-year increase as it secured 13.9% of deal value market share for 2019. Kirkland snagged 12.1% of the deal value market share, a 5.1 percent increase from 2018.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP experienced the biggest drop in market share for total deal volume. In 2018, the firm ranked seventh in terms of deals with the highest total dollar amount. For 2019, Freshfields dropped to 15th, marking a 3% year-over-year decline.

In early December, Freshfields hired a handful of new attorneys from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in an effort to expand its mergers and acquisitions practice.

Kirkland, which advised on the most mergers in 2019, grabbed 12.1% of the market share for deal count. For Kirkland, that’s a 5.1% increase from 2018.

Latham & Watkins LLP, which advised on 514 deals, clinched 8.4% of the deal count market share, marking a 2.7 year-over-year decline—the most for any firm in 2019.

For deals on which law firms served as the principal adviser to a party, Wachtell worked on the largest collective dollar value for 2019. Kirkland had the highest deal count as principal.

There were a total of 16,725 cross-border deals in 2019. Sullivan & Cromwell advised on cross-border mergers and acquisitions valued at a collective $148.6 billion, the most for any firm. Latham & Watkins advised on the highest number of cross-border deals, at a total of 266.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Graham in Washington at vgraham@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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