Sullivan & Cromwell's global M&A practice

Trainees in Sullivan & Cromwell's London office work in a demanding atmosphere on major international M&A deals.


S&C is ranked in band three for high-end global M&A capability in Chambers UK – an impressive showing for a firm that's still one of the smaller outfits in the crowded London market (the corporate practice is home to a modest 40 qualified lawyers). The practice holds its own by focusing on quality, not quantity – cherrypicking juicy complex deals which let its overflowing basket of international practices shine. Chambers Global currently ranks S&C as one of the 12 best corporate practices in the world in its global-wide rankings. The corporate practice also scores very well in Chambers Global's rankings for China, Japan and France as well as its Asia-Pacific and Latin America and Europe-wide categories.

The firm was involved in a whopping $90.5 billion worth of European M&A work in 2014, an amount that dwarfed its larger rivals, including magic circle giant A&O with $79.7 billion, as well as Skadden, Herbert Smith Freehills, and Latham & Watkins. On a global scale the figures are similarly impressive: S&C rakes in the largest amount of cash of any US firm doing M&A work with UK involvement. It worked on matters worth $128.9 billion, compared to its nearest rival Cravath at $89.7 billion. 

This makes the firm's London office a hotspot for M&A, as the firm's head of London office Richard Morrissey tells us. He hails the firm “very energetic international M&A practice...which drives a lot of work into the London office. So for example, we staffed most of the recent Nokia/Alcatel deal out of the London office with great support from our Paris colleagues – the deal isn't directly connected to London but that's where we do the work.” Other factors which make London a key point of call include the firm's favourable position in the centre of varying international time zones, the City's status as one of the globe's key financial hubs, and the primacy of both English and English law internationally.

Some of the names on S&C's international M&A client roster will be as familiar as Posh and Becks. The firm works with car manufacturers Fiat and Diageo, and prestigious American bank Goldman Sachs, whose merchant banking division punts billions of dollars worth of work S&C's way. Others are less familiar, international names who are getting involved in London markets. One such is PostNL, the Netherlands' post service, which is now Royal Mail's biggest competitor. S&C is advising the company on a joint deal with Lloyds Development Capital that will let it roll its rather better known subsidiary TNT post (beloved provider of mobile phone bills and junk mailouts) across the nation. Another client is financial advisory firm Lazard, which is advising US infection prevention giant STERIS on its $1.9bn offer to acquire UK health provider Synergy Health.

Both deals are symptomatic of an increasingly globalised UK market, which is opening up its services to international investment and ownership. These matters are a perfect fit for a firm that takes a global approach to its own management and structure. As training principal Ben Perry tells us, “We really are one firm and one partnership, and quite often you don't even notice someone is based in a different office because you talk to them all the time.” With billions at stake, its an approach that more than pays off.