Financial Services Deals a Boon to Am Law Firms Worldwide
The Am Law Daily
A trio of financial services transactions announced this month have boosted the corporate practices of several leading law firms.
New York–based private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts announced Monday its purchase of Prisma Capital Partners, an investment firm focused on hedge funds. Reuters reports that the money management unit of Dutch financial services giant Aegon, which helped set up Prisma in 2004, will sell its minority stake in Prisma but remain a significant investor in Prisma’s funds.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the transaction has yielded roles for two Am Law 100 firms that are no strangers to private equity and hedge fund work.
Schulte Roth & Zabel, a firm known for its top-tier hedge fund and investment management practice, is advising Aegon and Prisma on the deal with a team led by M&A partners Andre Weiss and Christopher Harrison, tax partner Philippe Benedict, investment management partner Jennifer Dunn, and employee benefits partner Holly Weiss. Anne Wynne has served as general counsel and chief compliance officer for New York–based Prisma since June 2010.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is advising longtime client KKR on the acquisition. Corporate partner Gary Horowitz, investment funds partner Jason Herman, tax chair Steven Todrys, tax partner Katharine Moir, employee benefits partner Andrea Wahlquist, and corporate counsel Lisa Klar are leading a team from the firm working on the matter.
KKR has long been one of Simpson Thacher’s largest clients. In 2011 alone, the firm advised KKR on its $7.2 billion acquisition of oil and gas company Samson, its $2.38 billion buy of Pfizer’s Capsugel division, its sale of a stake in Web domain name provider Go Daddy Group, and the purchase of stakes in Academy Sports + Outdoors and Vietnam’s Masan Group.
David Sorkin, a former Simpson Thacher partner and member of the firm’s executive committee, has served as general counsel of KKR since 2007. Documents disclosed as a result of KKR’s $2 billion initial public offering in 2010 revealed Sorkin’s annual compensation to be nearly $7 million. (Simpson Thacher handled the IPO work for KKR.)
Also on Monday, billionaire Nelson Peltz disclosed that he had amassed a 5.1 percent stake in investment boutique Lazard through his Trian Fund Management. Peltz, whose hedge fund is now Lazard’s largest outside shareholder, has thrown his support behind a strategic plan outlined earlier this year by Lazard management to increase its business and boost shareholder value.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison has traditionally handled transactions for Peltz, such as the activist investor’s $2.3 billion acquisition of Wendy’s International in 2008 and the $130 million sale of its majority stake in the Arby’s restaurant business last year. A Paul Weiss spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the Lazard matter.
Lazard’s longtime outside legal counsel of choice has been Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Bruce Wasserstein, a former lawyer at the firm who served as chairman and CEO of Lazard, eventually prevailed in a fierce internal battle to take the investment bank public in 2005. (Wasserstein, who died in 2009 at 61, once owned The American Lawyer and parent company ALM before selling both to London-based Incisive Media in 2007 for $630 million.)
Two spokeswomen for Cravath did not respond to requests for comment on whether Lazard turned to the firm for counsel on the stake taken by Peltz, nor did corporate partner and longtime Lazard lawyer Erik Tavzel. Scott Hoffman, another former Cravath lawyer who serves as managing director and general counsel of Lazard, did not respond to a request for comment on the bank’s legal advisers for the transaction.
Last week, Lazard elected former Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler partner Richard Parsons, who also served as chairman of Citigroup and CEO of Time Warner, to its board of directors. Other members of Lazard’s board include Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld senior counsel Vernon Jordan Jr. and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Hal Scott, a Harvard Law School graduate who serves as director of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, an independent and nonpartisan research organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Several prominent Am Law 100 alums also work at Lazard. Last year the former managing partner of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Mark Walker, left after 45 years at the firm to join Lazard’s sovereign advisory group, where he has played a prominent role over the past year advising the Greek government. Lazard also employs Timothy Pohl, the former cohead of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s corporate restructuring practice, who joined the bank in January 2009.
In another major deal announced earlier this month, London-based Norton Rose, which in recent years has put a premium on explosive international growth, took the lead for Absa Bank, a South African subsidiary of Barclays, on its $1.2 billion purchase of the retail credit card business of African department store chain Edcon.
A team of Norton Rose lawyers in South Africa and Abu Dhabi led by corporate partners Kevin Cron and Alan Bainbridge are advising Johannesburg-based Absa Bank on the deal, the biggest in its history. With roughly 700 branches and nearly 9,300 ATMs throughout South Africa, Absa Bank is one of the largest retail and mortgage lenders in the country