Morgan Stanley, Kirkland Two Busiest Dealmakers in First Quarter

This article was originally published by The Deal, a sister publication of TheStreet that offers sophisticated insight and analysis on all types of deals, from inception to integration. Click here for a free trial.


Morgan Stanley
(MS) is the top investment adviser for mergers and acquisitions through the first quarter of 2017, according to The Deal.

With 33 deals, the firm leads other bulge-bracket banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.  (GS) , Barclays plc  (BCS) and Citigroup Inc.  (C) . The top six investment advisers, all large-cap banks, combined for a total of 138 deals through the first three months of the year, according to The Deal's rankings, which are based on announced deals with a value of more than $100 million. 

Citigroup is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells C? Learn more now.

The rankings also reveal that boutique firms like Lazard Ltd.  (LAZ) , Centerview Partners LLC and Evercore Partners Inc.  (EVR) have each nabbed a fair portion of the deals.

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson Inc.  (JNJ) , privately owned M&M maker Mars Inc, Chinese telecom company SoftBank Group Corp. and the highly sought after MoneyGram International Inc.  (MGI) are just a few of the M&A players this quarter that relied on industry veterans at these banks.

So who were the notable executives at the banks leading the deals?

The Deal breaks down rosters of some of the busiest dealmakers on Wall Street through the first quarter.

The Stable at Morgan Stanley

With a rotating stable of dealmakers at Morgan Stanley, it's no wonder why the firm was able to rack up 33 transactions between Jan. 1 and March 31. Ben Frost, a managing director specializing in consumer M&A at the bank, led the Mars team in its $9.1-billion acquisition of VCA Inc.  (WOOF) , which was announced Jan. 9. Vice Chairman David Heleniak and Jeff Hibbard, managing director, advised natural gas pipeline operator Oneok Inc.  (OKE) in its move to buy its publicly traded master limited partnership Oneok Partners LP  (OKS) for $9.3 billion in February.

For Mead Johnson Nutrition Co.'s  (MJN) $17.9-billion merger with British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser Group plc  (RBGPF) , the baby-formula maker hired Morgan Stanley's banking team comprised of Clinton Gartin, Susan Huang and Kristin Rossi.

(The firm also advised Unilever NV  (UN) on the failed, but "friendly" $143 billion bid from Kraft Heinz Co.  (KHC) , which was the single-largest announced deal in the first quarter. For comparison, Safran SA's  (SAFRY) acquisition of Zodiac Aerospace SA for $10.6 billion was the largest completed transaction during the period.)

Michael Carr, Goldman Sachs

With 25 deals during the first quarter, Goldman Sachs finished second in The Deal's ranking's behind Morgan Stanley. Goldman's Michael Carr, co-head of global M&A, led the bank's team in advising target Mead Johnson Nutrition, along with the team from Morgan Stanley. Carr also advised Air Methods Corp.  (AIRM) in its $1.6-billion merger with FMC Corp.  (FMC) in March.

Carr joined the firm in 1998 as a partner.

Max de Gennaro, Lazard Ltd.

Two years after guiding Reynolds American Inc.  (RAI) on its $25 billion acquisition of rival Lorillard, Lazard's Max de Gennaro, co-head of North American consumer and retail investment banking, helped the tobacco firm navigate its acquisition by British American Tobacco plc (BTI) -- a transaction valued at $58 billion.

Additionally, De Gennaro's colleagues Jason Bernhard and David Gluckman advised Ariad Pharmaceuticals in its $5.2 billion takeover by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. The firm advised Johnson & Johnson on its Actelion merger, valued at $30 billion, as well as Kraft Heinz in its unsuccessful bid for Unilever. These deals help make Lazard the top boutique investment adviser behind the large-cap banks, ranking fifth overall. 

But, banks are not the only ones responsible for hammering out a deal, law firms are also critical to getting a deal done. More than 10 firms were each involved in at least a dozen transactions in the first quarter. Kirkland & Ellis LLP leads the way, followed by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP round out the top five firms.

With 31 deals announced in the first quarter, it was a busy period for Kirkland.

"Every area of our practice had a successful quarter," Sarkis Jebejian, a partner at Kirkland who focuses on mergers and acquisitions, said by phone Thursday. "It was very much a team approach involving multiple offices."

The second quarter, so far, is even busier for Kirkland, Jebejian said. 

"We're very confident in the pipeline of projects we have," said Jebejian. "We have a number of projects, including some for brand new clients, underway from the first quarter, which will hopefully lead to announced deals in the second and third quarters."

Jonathan Davis at Kirkland & Ellis

Shortly after making a move to Kirkland & Ellis from Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Jonathan Davis was given big responsibilities, namely leading a team to guide Mead Johnson Nutrition in its pending $17.9 billion sale to Reckitt Benckiser Group plc.

"It's a sign of how active Kirkland's practice is -- that someone like Jon hits the ground running, playing a central role in a major project from day one," said Jebejian. 

Davis moved to Kirkland in December 2016. His notable transactions at Cravath, Swaine & Moore include Anheuser-Busch InBev's  (BUD) $123 billion purchase of SABMiller and the $60 billion merger between H.J. Heinz Company and Kraft Foods Group to create the Kraft Heinz Company  (KHC) .

Davis received his Juris Doctor degree from New York University Law School and his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin.

Elizabeth Cooper at Simpson Thacher & Barlett

Elizabeth Cooper started off 2017 on a strong note with two multi-billion-dollar deals announced within 24 hours of each other. Cooper, along with Gary Horowitz, advised KKR & Co. LP  (KKR) in its joint purchase with Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec of USI Insurance Services for a total of $4.3 billion. (Adam Givertz with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison advised CDPQ.)

"[Financial Institutions Group] was pretty busy with five deals this quarter," said Cooper by phone Wednesday. "It reflects the run-up in bank stocks since the election," she added.

For 3M Co.'s  (MMM) $2 billion acquisition of Scott Safety from Johnson Controls, Cooper and Alan Klein advised the target.

Going ahead, Cooper said there may be some ups and downs over the next couple of quarters for the M&A landscape, especially with the highly anticipated tax reform. Still, she is "optimistic long term."

Cooper joined Simpson Thacher in 2001 following her graduation from Columbia Law School, where she was a James Kent Scholar. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1997.

Scott Barshay at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Another Cravath defection, Scott Barshay, has delivered for his new firm Paul Weiss. Barshay, the global head of M&A, led the team advising Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. in its sale to Takeda Pharmaceuticals. In February, Barshay faced off against his former partner Mark Greene for the failed Unilever-Kraft Heinz merger. Paul Weiss advised Kraft Heinz, while Cravath guided Unilever.

Barshay joined Paul Weiss in 2016 after spending 25 years at Cravath. He received his law degree from Columbia and earned his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

The bankers and Paul Weiss did not return our requests for comment by the time of publication.

For more on The Deal's league tables for M&A, private equity, restructuring, bankruptcy and more, click here.

More from Mergers and Acquisitions

NYSE Trader on Sirius, Pandora and Monday's Stock Market Decline

NYSE Trader on Sirius, Pandora and Monday's Stock Market Decline

Goldman Names Dees Co-Head of Investment Banking

Goldman Names Dees Co-Head of Investment Banking

All-Male Boards Could Face New Pressure From Shareholder Adviser ISS

All-Male Boards Could Face New Pressure From Shareholder Adviser ISS

3 Reasons Apple or Alphabet Should Consider Buying Tesla

3 Reasons Apple or Alphabet Should Consider Buying Tesla

Kraft Heinz Has an 'Unsustainable Diet,' Says Morgan Stanley

Kraft Heinz Has an 'Unsustainable Diet,' Says Morgan Stanley