Each year, a significant chunk of the world's
dealmaking-major mergers and acquisitions, antitrust and
shareholder litigation, big name restructurings and
multi-billion-dollar real estate ventures-gets cranked through the
well-greased machine that is Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
Manning the apparatus are a gifted few, whose compensation far
outstrips industry standards. While it may not be the biggest or
the highest revenue-maker as a firm, it is the most profitable
place in the world to practice law. Wachtell Lipton is one of the
smallest firms in the AmLaw 100, but it is continually one of the
top firms (and usually the top firm) when it comes to PPP, and it
stands above the going market rate for first-year associate
The New York Four
Founded in 1965 by four princes of NYU's Law Review-Herbert
Wachtell, Martin Lipton, Leonard Rosen and George Katz-this
resolutely New York firm still operates from a single Manhattan
office. Public interest law champion Katz died young, at 57, in
1989. Rosen remained at the firm as Of Counsel until he passed away
in 2014 at the age of 83. Wachtell and Lipton remain at the firm as
active partners. In 1982, Lipton-who recently topped New York
Magazine's list of the most influential lawyers in New
York-actually created the "poison pill," one of the most famous and
enduring ways to protect shareholders' rights.
History of Excellence
What sets the firm apart, even rivals concede, is that in
a city of razor-sharp competitors, no other quite matches what
Wachtell Lipton does. From its early days, the firm steered clear
of run-of-the-mill corporate matters, choosing messier, riskier
work. As such, Wachtell Lipton relies far less on bread-and-butter
clients and politely declines more plebeian (if nonetheless
profitable) engagements. The firm was one of the first to
link its fees to deal value, a model that became the aspiration of
most major M&A houses.
Historic matters for the firm include the death's door
resuscitation of Chrysler in the 1970s. The firm also played a key
role in the much-publicized acquisition of Getty Oil Company, in
which Texaco's "white knight" offer was heralded as one of the
greatest acquisitions in history. In more recent history, the firm
has seen great success with LBOs and IPOs, corporate restructurings
and other finance matters. It took the lead on what some observers
have called the most complex real estate deal in history: the
successful negotiation of a master development agreement for the
World Trade Center site following September 11th.
Hard Times = Cold Cash
Wachtell Lipton's more recent work reflects its dominance
as a corporate finance powerhouse as well as the economic climate's
provision of M&A and restructuring work. The firm represented
Bank of America as it acquired Merrill Lynch, co-advised the U.S.
Department of the Treasury when the government took over AIG, and
advised the Feds during the takeover of mortgage giants Freddie Mac
and Fannie Mae.
IN THE NEWS
Hostile Takeover Heroes
Corporate Partners Dan Neff and David Katz were featured in The
American Lawyer Dealmakers of the Year issue for their
representation of Allergan in its $66 billion acquisition by
Actavis plc., the culmination of the firm's work on the closely
watched, months-long takeover battle kicked off by an "odd-couple"
hostile bid engineered by Bill Ackman's Pershing Square and Valeant
Pharmaceuticals. The fight over Allergan highlighted Wachtell
Lipton's integrated team approach and litigation prowess, including
its work in winning a groundbreaking preliminary injunction that
set new precedent against unfair tactics in takeover bids.
Bring on the Inversions
Inversions have been a hot (and perhaps controversial!) topic.
Among some of the transactions Wachtell Lipton handled that fall
into this category are: Tim Hortons in its $12.2 billion
combination with Burger King Worldwide, Covidien plc in its $49.9
billion acquisition by Medtronic, and both Forest Laboratories and
Allergan in their $28 billion and $66 billion acquisitions by
Dollar Store Wars
The firm is representing Dollar Tree in its $9 billion acquisition
of Family Dollar, an epic takeover saga during which Dollar General
unsuccessfully launched a competing topping bid and Elliott
Management sought to run a proxy contest in connection with the
deal. The deal was initially signed against the backdrop of Carl
Icahn threatening a proxy fight at Family Dollar and pushing for a
sale to none other than Dollar General.
Coffee and Donuts and…Burgers?
The firm represented Canadian super chain Tim Hortons in its $12.2
billion combination with Burger King Worldwide creating a global
leader in the quick service restaurant industry.
The firm was recognized by Who's Who Legal as Firm of the
Year for M&A and Corporate Governance.
The firm's Litigation Department was awarded M&A Litigation
Team of the Year by The Legal 500 in the publication's
inaugural Legal 500 US Awards, recognizing the firm's expertise in
takeover and transactional litigation.
The NBA tapped the firm to lead its investigation of comments by
L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling that caused Sterling to be
banned from the NBA, fined $2.5 million, and ultimately led to the
sale of the Clippers for $2 billion. The firm has also represented
the NBA in a number of other internal investigations.