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United States > M&A/corporate and commercial > Private equity buyouts > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

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  1. Private equity buyouts
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Who Represents Who

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Kirkland & Ellis LLPdoes not rest on its laurels’ and continued to build out its leading private equity practice with the acquisition of Peter Martelli from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Since arriving, Martelli advised Blackstone on its $6.1bn acquisition of physician services business TeamHealth, one of the largest buyouts of 2016. In addition, the firm brought in Michael Weisser and Sarah Stasny from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. These followed a string of headline lateral hires over the last few years. While it is increasing its exposure to the highest-value deals, with one client hailing it as ‘top of the list’ for the ‘largest and most complicated buyouts’, the firm still has ‘legions of partners to service the middle market’. It is particularly strong in certain market segments, such as real estate and energy. The firm’s Houston office, led by Andrew Calder, has become a major force in energy buyouts for clients such as Blackstone and KKR. In 2016, Calder and the team advised Blackstone on its $2.17bn acquisition, along with ArcLight, of four Midwest power plants from subsidiaries of American Electric Power. The firm reinforced its Houston office in 2016 with the hire of Adam Larson from Vinson & Elkins LLP and Doug Bacon from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. Other highlights included advising long-time client Bain Capital on its $1.28bn sale of portfolio company Physio-Control International to Stryker and assisting KKR with its strategic investment in professional mixed martial arts organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Other clients include Madison Dearborn Partners, Apax Partners, Carlyle, Centerbridge Partners, Golden Gate Capital, GTCR, Oaktree Capital Management, Silver Lake, TPG and Warburg Pincus. Notable partners include Jon Ballis, Stephen Ritchie, Sanford Perl, Matthew Steinmetz, Richard Campbell and New York’s Eunu Chun. Jeffrey Seifmanworks hand in hand’ with clients and Los Angeles-based Tana Ryan is ‘great’, ‘finds the right solution to get the deal done’, and ‘thinks very well on her feet’. New York partner Leo Greenberg is a ‘real star and a great guy’. All named partners are based in Chicago unless stated otherwise.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is ‘a classy institution that continues to develop private equity relationships’, including, famously, with bulge-bracket clients such as KKR, Blackstone, Silver Lake and Hellman & Friedman. The firm’s efforts to build its position in the middle market has also brought rewards; other clients include Apax Partners, Centerbridge Partners, CVC Capital Partners, EQT Partners, Platinum Equity Partners, Sterling Partners, Vista Equity Partners and Warburg Pincus. The firm has an impressive bench of senior specialists, as well as strength in the junior ranks. The firm’s strength in buyouts is complemented by its leading position in leveraged finance, fund formation, employee benefits and executive compensation, and tax structuring. In 2016, it advised Dell and Silver Lake on their $67bn acquisition of data storage company EMC, creating the largest privately controlled integrated technology company in the world; the deal was also described as the largest-ever in the technology industry. In other headline deals, the firm advised Apax Partners, as a major shareholder in King Digital Entertainment, on the $5.9bn sale of King Digital to Activision Blizzard, and assisted Vista Equity Partners with its $6.5bn acquisition of Solera. Marni Lerner became head of the private equity buyouts team in 2016 and leads a hugely impressive department that also features Gary Horowitz, Wilson Neely, William Curbow, Ryerson Symons and Palo Alto partner Richard Capelouto, who is ‘the best there is’, according to a peer. Brian Stadler is recommended for real estate-related deals. All named partners are based in New York unless stated otherwise.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a ‘go-to’ firm at the ‘top of the legal community’, providing ‘the highest level of service’ thanks to ‘the commercial acumen of the professionals’. The firm is praised for bringing the ‘most critical commercial and risk points to the forefront’ and for its ‘consistent quality of work and strong cultural fit’ with clients. The firm extended its client relationships in 2016, advising 21 private equity sponsors on deals, up from 15 in 2015. Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Kelso & Company are long-term clients, but it is also receiving regular engagements from key names such as Providence Equity Partners, and is making solid progress with diversified sponsors such as Carlyle, including its technology and media, healthcare, and consumer and retail divisions. The firm also impressed with its work for alternative capital providers such as Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). Healthcare, insurance, technology, media and telecoms are key sectors for the practice, which benefits from the support of the firm’s market-leading fund formation practice, its esteemed borrower-oriented leveraged finance practice, an established tax practice and a solid employee benefits and executive compensation team. In 2016, it advised CPPIB on its $1.1bn acquisition of specialty insurer Ascot from AIG. Key partners include senior name and ‘experienced M&A attorneyPaul Bird, who is pivotal to the firm’s work for Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. Kevin Schmidt leads the firm’s connection to Kelso and CPPIB and Kevin Rinker has an impressive record with Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Morgan Stanley Global Private Equity and Providence Equity; Rinker has the ‘experience base, familiarity with market precedents and ability to help create unique structures to position clients to make the best deals they can’. Uri Herzberg, who was promoted to partner in July 2016, also receives praise from clients. Peggy Andrews Davenport has retired from the partnership, but remains of counsel.

Latham & Watkins LLP’s breadth across key industries and financial centers in the US and around the world, as well as an enviable client base of large and mid-market private equity houses, makes it a tremendous force in this sector. Clients range from the biggest funds such as Carlyle, BC Partners, KKR and GTCR to middle-market players such as One Equity Partners, Leonard Green & Partners, Genstar Capital, Odyssey Partners and Platinum Equity. The firm’s standing is supported by a leading private equity finance practice and a global presence in the high-yield debt market. Its strengths in antitrust, energy, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and employee benefits are also important to its private equity standing. The firm advised Carlyle on its $400m minority investment in Ion Investment Group, a rare instance of a bulge-bracket private equity house taking a minority stake in a privately owned business. In another headline deal for a long-term client, it advised Onex on its $3.55bn acquisition, alongside Baring Private Equity Asia, of the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters. Showcasing its energy expertise, it advised Energy Capital Partners on the $3.3bn acquisition by Atlas Power - the joint venture between Energy Capital and Dynergy - of the US fossil generation portfolio of Engie. Key partners in the team include department heads David Brown (in Washington DC) and Jennifer Perkins, key Carlyle relationship partner Daniel Lennon (also in Washington DC) and senior name Howard Sobel. Other prominent names include Raymond Lin, Ted Sonnenschein and Washington DC’s Paul Sheridan, who is close to Onex and Carlyle. All named partners are New York based unless stated otherwise.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP had a banner year in 2016, thanks partly to cornerstone big-ticket client Apollo being especially active in the buyout segment. Taurie Zeitzer has helped solidify the firm’s relationship with Apollo since joining from Kirkland & Ellis LLP in 2015. The firm, which ‘goes above and beyond for clients’, advised Apollo and portfolio company Protection 1 on their $15bn acquisition of ADT Corporation, which was one of the largest leveraged buyouts of recent years. The firm is also close to big-ticket funds General Atlantic and Oaktree Capital Management and a range of middle-market sponsors, such as CI Capital Partners, Kohlberg & Co, KPS Capital Partners, Oak Hill Capital Partners and TowerBrook; it also has a growing connection to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Roark Capital. In addition, the arrival of new global head of M&A Scott Barshay from Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in 2016 provides a connection to 3G Capital. General Atlantic engaged the firm on a series of deals in 2016, including the $725m sale of portfolio company Aperture New Holdings to E*TRADE. It also advised KPS on a number of transactions, including its acquisition of Anchor Glass Container Corporation. Co-head of the M&A group Angelo Bonvino leads the firm’s relationship with Kohlberg & Co, KPS and Oak Hill along with fellow co-head Matthew Abbott, who leads the General Atlantic relationship and is central to the firm’s connection to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Carl Reisner is the senior name in the team, John Scott is another key figure for Apollo, and Neil Goldman is also close to General Atlantic. All named partners are based in New York.

Ropes & Gray LLP is recommended for ‘complicated and sophisticated M&A work’, providing ‘a fantastic M&A service’, ‘a very deep bench of talented partners and associates’ that are ‘deeply entrenched in the private equity M&A market’. The firm represents six of the ten largest US private equity funds, 32 of the 100 largest global funds and more than 35 mid-market funds engaged in transactions ranging from $100m to $1bn. Its two cornerstone bulge-bracket clients remain Bain Capital and TPG Capital. Highlight deals included advising Bain Capital on the proposed dual-track sale or IPO of Blue Coat, which resulted in its $4.65bn sale to Symantec. It also advised Bain and its portfolio business The Weather Company on the sale of its product and technology unit to IBM. In addition, it advised Silver Lake on its $4.5bn take-private acquisition of SolarWinds alongside Thomas Bravo. The team has an especially strong reputation for life sciences, healthcare and technology deals. Experienced figure Alfred Rose and frequent Bain adviser Will Shields head the department, which also includes the seasoned David Chapin, Newcomb Stillwell and New York partners Daniel Evans, Othon Prounis and David Blittner, who joined from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in 2016. Kendrick Chow is a ‘go-to buyout lawyer’ and ‘trusted adviser’ with ‘many years of experience in the buyout space’. The firm also has a strong team of partners in Chicago and San Francisco. All named lawyers are based in Boston unless stated otherwise.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is a ‘great firm that certainly has had some talented people’. Despite some partner departures, including Michael Weisser to Kirkland & Ellis LLP and David Blittner to Ropes & Gray LLP, it has continued to cement relationships with major private equity houses such as TPG. The team advised TPG Growth and TPG Special Situations on the acquisition of a minority stake in Spotify Technology. It also advised JAB Holding Company, as the leader of an investment group, on the $13.9bn take-private acquisition of Keurig Green Mountain, and represented Omers Private Equity in its $1bn take-private acquisition (alongside Harvest Partners) of Epiq Systems. Advent International, Providence Equity, Berkshire Partners, Centerbridge Partners and CVC Partners are among its core client base. New York partner and department head Douglas Warner is ‘easy to work with’, ‘constructive’ and ‘smart’. Also in New York, Christopher Machera is an up-and-coming partner with good relationships with TPG and Centerbridge, and Peter Feist has added further senior-level credibility after transferring from the Hong Kong office in 2015. In the private equity-focused Boston office, Kevin Sullivan is pivotal to the Providence relationship and Marilyn French remains close to Advent. Silicon Valley partner Kyle Krpata is also key to the TPG relationship, and the ‘fantasticGlenn West has ‘a great legal mind but also provides very practical advice’ and is ‘by far the best corporate lawyer in Dallas’, according to one client.

Building on its longstanding connection with TPG Capital, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP has bolstered its position in the private equity world with a mounting number of deals for Warburg Pincus. Other clients include Temasek, Silver Point Capital and The Raine Group. Paul Shim and David Leinwand lead the TPG and Warburg Pincus relationships respectively, though there is an increasing number of partners that contribute to the success of the firm in the private equity sector, including Robert Davis, Michael Ryan and younger partners Paul Tiger and James Langston. The firm’s wider resources are key to its strengthening client relationships, particularly its strong teams in antitrust, tax and employee benefits and the expertise of leveraged finance expert Margaret Peponis. The firm recently advised Warburg Pincus on its acquisition of equipment and technology finance provider Ascentium Capital. It also represented TPG in its $2.25bn acquisition of RCN and Grande Communications, the providers of cable television, internet and telephone services.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP has ‘put more weight into private equity’ in recent years and has built up an impressive portfolio of sponsor clients. New York is its strongest office but it has a genuinely ‘national practice with a lot of great clients in California’. Ronald Cami, previously general counsel at TPG Global and a former Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP partner, joined the firm’s Menlo Park office in September 2016. TPG Capital is a key client of the firm, along with Corsair Capital, Crestview Partners, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Lightyear Capital, Metalmark Capital, Morgan Stanley Capital, Tailwind Capital and Warburg Pincus. Highlights included advising Lightyear Capital on the $500m sale of Swett & Crawford to BB&T and the $600m divestment of Clarion Partners to Legg Mason. John Amorosi is credited with much of the firm’s progress in private equity and is supported by key partners Leonard Kreynin, John Bick, Michael Davis and William Chudd. David Caplan left in 2016 to become general counsel at Atairos Management, which is now a client of the firm.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP has an impressive history in the private equity sector and is noted for its ties to Goldman Sachs and Permira. Beyond these two marquee clients, the firm has advised a wide variety of private equity sponsors, including AEA Investors, American Securities, CVC Capital Partners, KKR, New Mountain, Onex Partners, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, and Wendel. Healthcare, technology and real estate are key industry sectors for the practice. Deal highlights included advising AEA and Ontario Teachers’ on the $3.25bn sale of Dematic to Germany’s KION Group. It also advised Permira on the $2.6bn sale of the majority of its equity stake in Ancestry.com to Silver Lake and GIC. Robert Schwenkel remains a giant of the private equity sector and Christopher Ewangets things done in a business-like and efficient manner’, doing ‘a good job of representing his client without injecting unnecessary atmospherics’ into the deal. Steven Steinman is a ‘great M&A lawyer’, ‘extremely reasonable’ and ‘plays his hand very well’. Aviva Diamant, Andrew Colosimo and Washington DC-based Brian Mangino are also recommended. Named partners are based in New York unless stated otherwise.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP saw increased activity in the middle market and benefited from multiple engagements from marquee client Lone Star. CVC Capital Partners is another big-ticket client that is engaging the firm on an increasingly frequent basis. The team was enhanced by the arrival of New York partner John Pollack from Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in 2016, providing another source of middle-market sponsor connections. In 2016, the firm represented CVC Capital Partners and CPPIB in their $4.6bn joint acquisition of Petco Animal Supplies from a group of investors led by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners. The firm also advised CPPIB on its joint venture with The Broe Group and on their $900m acquisition of the Denver-Julesburg Basin oil and gas assets in Colorado from Encana Oil & Gas. In addition, it advised CVC on the sale of its interest in AlixPartners to a consortium of investors. The private equity group benefits from the firm’s leading regulatory expertise, including extensive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) experience, and an impressive borrower-side finance practice. Key partners include New York-based Sean Griffiths and Steven Shoemate, Lone Star relationship partner Jeffrey Chapman in Dallas and Los Angeles-based Ari Lanin.

Proskauer Rose LLP has achieved prominence through its impressive sponsor relationships, most famously with Ares Management, but increasingly with big-ticket funds such as KKR and Carlyle. Thanks in part to the firm’s standing in sports, media and entertainment, it was engaged by KKR (alongside Kirkland & Ellis LLP) to advise on the $4bn acquisition, alongside IMG Worldwide and Silver Lake, of a majority stake in UFC. The firm also represented Carlyle in its investment in London-based PA Consulting Group, and advised marquee client Ares Management in connection with Ares Capital Corporation’s $4bn acquisition of American Capital. The private equity buyouts group is supported by one of the leading private equity fund management teams in the market. Los Angeles-based Michael Woronoff and Monica Shilling co-head the private equity group, with the former regarded as a ‘very fine lawyer’ and noted for his connection to Ares. Boston partner Steven Peck is another pivotal member of the team and New York’s Jeffrey Horwitz spearheads the private equity real estate side of the practice.

White & Case LLP has emerged as a global leader in private equity thanks to recent team expansions in Europe and Asia. The US team continues to grow its client base and increase its exposure to higher-value deals. The firm’s extensive national and global resources, including its highly reputed finance platform, gives it great appeal to private equity sponsors. Clients include CVC Capital Partners, Carlyle, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Global Infrastructure Partners, Quad-C Management, Partners Group and Macquarie Infrastructure Partners. The firm advised CVC, as part of a consortium including Temasek and Vatera Healthcare Partners, on the multibillion-dollar acquisition of a controlling stake in US generics company Alvogen from Pamplona Capital Management. It also advised FRHI Holdings, QIA and the Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia on the $2.9bn sale of FRHI to AccorHotels. Oliver Brahmst is global co-head of private equity and John Reiss is global head of M&A and a regular adviser on private equity deals. Carolyn Vardi and Matthew Kautz are also key team members and principally focused on private equity deals.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is ‘always solid’, ‘best in class’ and has ‘extremely good lawyers’ that provide ‘fast responses’. Clients also highlight the firm’s expertise in fund formation and it has impressive credentials in asset management regulation as well as solid leveraged finance capabilities. The firm has an extensive list of private equity clients, which includes Insight Venture Partners, Warburg Pincus, Riverstone Holdings, Aquiline Capital Partners, Genstar Capital and Friedman Fleischer & Lowe. The Houston office, which launched in 2014, has had tremendous success in energy sector transactions for private equity houses, in part thanks to the presence of Bruce Herzog; he has a close connection with Riverstone Holdings and recently advised the client on the $2.7bn sale of its stake in Vantage Energy to Rice Energy. Scott Miller joined the Houston team from Bracewell LLP in 2016, and another key name in that office is Michael De Voe Piazza, who has an ‘outstanding ability to see transactions through his client’s eyes and do everything possible to secure a maximum beneficial outcome’ and uses ‘cool-headed rationale and logic to prevail over the counterparty’. Firm chairman Steven Gartner and co-chairman Gordon Caplan are key members of the private equity team, along with co-chairs of the private equity practice group Neil Townsend and Jeffrey Poss, and seasoned figure Kirk Radke.

DLA Piper LLP (US) has consolidated its position in the middle market and is now often engaged in high-value deals too; it is noted for its record in healthcare, life sciences, media and energy. It advised Arsenal Capital Partners on a series of transactions in 2016, including its acquisition of Peterson Chemical Technology and BW Peterson Holdings, and its sale of Chromaflo Technologies to American Securities. ABRY Partners is a growing client for Atlanta-based Joe Alexander and the team advised the private equity house on its $550m sale of Emerging Markets Communications and its $126m leveraged buyout of AddSecure. Chicago’s Steven Napolitano and New York-based Daniel Eisner are co-chairs of the department. Other notable clients are Wind Point Partners, Arbor Investments, Baird Capital, Centerbridge Partners, Sterling Partners and Stonebridge Partners.

Dechert LLP provides ‘excellent insight and analysis with great response times’, ‘a high-quality service’ and has ‘very good business acumen at a reasonable price’. The firm has continued to expand its private equity team globally, most notably in London and Hong Kong. This has helped the firm to consolidate its position in the US, where is has assembled an enviable client list of names such as Bregal Partners, Centre Partners Management, Cerberus Capital Management, Court Square Capital Partners, GIC, Graham Partners, Quilvest Private Equity and Versa Capital Management. It advised GIC on its acquisition of a substantial equity stake, along with Silver Lake, in Ancestry.com. It also advised Cerberus on the $1.25bn sale of real estate interests in nine acute care hospitals operated by Steward Health Care System to Medical Properties Trust. Mark Thierfelder is chair of the global private equity practice and classed by clients as a ‘world-class M&A lawyer’ and ‘exceptional strategist’. Markus Bolsinger, a recruit from Kirkland & Ellis LLP in 2015, ‘thinks really well on his feet’, ‘negotiates hard for his client but picks the right points that are the most important’ and ‘identifies the most creative solution to get the deal done’. Christian Matarese is a ‘great all-round young M&A partner’. Derek Winokur is also recommended by clients and in Philadelphia Geraldine Sinatra and CEO Henry Nassau are key members of the private equity team. All named partners are based in New York unless stated otherwise.

Goodwin primarily inhabits the middle market, with a rare scope of practice covering the full spectrum of private equity transactions, from growth equity to high-value transactions. Recent lateral hires in Europe have added to the firm’s standing in the US and helped it to represent existing clients on a more global basis; these include Partners Group and TA Associates. Other clients include Charlesbank Capital Partners, JMI Equity, Carlyle, Great Hill and Goldman Sachs. Highlights included advising TA Associates on its $1.15bn acquisition of Russell Investments from the London Stock Exchange Group. It also advised Great Hill Partners portfolio company DealerRater.com on its sale to Cars.com. The private equity team has an especially strong record in life sciences, tech, healthcare and financial services. Key partners include Boston-based John LeClaire and Michael Kendall, Los Angeles’ Andrew Weidhaas, Brian McPeake in San Francisco and James Hutchinson in Washington DC.

Jones Day has a substantial share of the middle-market private equity space and is expanding its institutional relationships with larger funds. It frequently advises The Riverside Company, along with other key clients such as One Equity Partners, Baird Capital, Blue Point Capital, Cortec Group and Wasserstein & Co. The firm advised Wasserstein & Co on the $1.56bn sale, alongside MidOcean Partners, of professional information services company Penton to Informa. It also advised Riverside on the acquisition of n2y, the developer of education plans and tools for children with special needs. New York’s Andrew Levine now heads the private equity team, which includes senior Cleveland figure Chuck Hardin, who leads the Riverside relationship, and impressive Cleveland partner Denise Carkhuff. New York-based Ira White is close to One Equity and Chicago-based Lisa Lathrop is also a pivotal member of the team. Dan Michaels joined the Washington DC office from Kirkland & Ellis LLP in 2016.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is praised for its ‘excellent service, responsiveness and deep team’. According to clients, it is ‘excellent value for money’ and ‘top amongst its peers’. The private equity team is strong on both east and west coasts and is best known for its strength in Philadelphia, New York and Orange County. The department’s impressive client list includes Apollo, Ares Capital, Arsenal Capital Partners, LLR Partners and Sun Capital Partners. The firm’s strong regulatory credentials affords the private equity practice particular credibility in sectors such as healthcare, energy, financial services and media and technology. Deal highlights included advising Platinum Equity on its $4bn acquisition of the Network Power business of Emerson Electric. The team is led by Philadelphia’s Barbara Shander and James Loss in Orange County. Philadelphia-based David Gerson and Alec Dawson in New York are also highly regarded. Los Angeles-based John Filippone is ‘extremely knowledgeable, very smart and extremely technically proficient’.

Sidley Austin LLP has significantly expanded its national and global private equity offering in the last three years. The firm typically operates in the upper middle-market space, although it does advise several bulge-bracket private equity funds such as Apollo - initially for its insurance platform but now for a wider array of transactions. Fortress Investment Group, Harvest Partners, HIG and Siris Capital are also key clients. Its strengthening focus on the private equity industry is supported by its market-leading regulatory acumen, and the team has an especially strong record in life sciences, telecoms and media and entertainment. Los Angeles’ Dan Clivner, who joined from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in 2015, led the team that advised Siris Capital on its $2bn acquisition of Polycom and its $1.1bn acquisition of Premiere Global Services. Other key team members include Chicago-based Chris Abbinante, Scott Parel in Dallas, and Scott Freeman and ‘good lawyerMatthew Rizzo in New York. Dallas partner Angela Fontana is a major player in sponsor-side acquisition and leveraged finance.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s market-leading M&A credentials are frequently sought out by private equity sponsors. Its impressive cross-border expertise and notable experience in financial services and energy are also major attractions, and its strength in restructuring and bankruptcy makes it well equipped to handle distressed M&A and investments. A regular client is Permira, which it advised on the $1.5bn sale of portfolio company Intelligrated to Honeywell International. It also advised Freescale Semiconductor and a private equity consortium including Blackstone, Carlyle, Permira and TPG on Freescale’s $11.8bn acquisition by NXP Semiconductors. New York partner Allison Schneirov heads the private equity group.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s market-leading M&A practice may overshadow its activities in the private equity sector, but it has quietly assembled an impressive client list that includes names such as Apollo, Ares, Carlyle, CPPIB, Energy and Minerals Group, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Lion Capital, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, Qatar Investment Authority and Versa Capital. The firm’s wider expertise and resources, including strong corporate governance and distressed investment expertise, are routinely deployed in complex and esoteric deals. In 2016, the firm advised the ad hoc committee of Key Energy’s senior notes, led by Platinum Equity, on Key Energy’s $750m deleveraging and recapitalization pre-packaged Chapter 11. In another major deal, the firm advised Ares, as the largest shareholder in Nortek, on Nortek’s $2.8bn acquisition by Melrose Industries. Los Angeles-based Alison Ressler has a stellar record in private equity deals for funds such as Ontario Teachers’ and Ares. In New York, George Sampas has worked on a series of deals for Energy and Minerals Group, Rhône Capital and CPPIB. New York’s Richard Pollack is another key team member.

Vinson & Elkins LLP has committed a great deal of effort, resources and expertise to the private equity sector and has made impressive progress, especially in its core industry sector of energy. The team is ‘among the best’, providing an ‘outstanding service’ and clients are ‘impressed with its level of industry and market knowledge’. Highlights included advising TPG portfolio company Nexeo Solutions on its $1.57bn merger with WL Ross Holdings and representing long-term client Riverstone in its partnership with Kinder Morgan in the $500m Utopia Pipeline Project. Other clients include Apollo, Blackstone, Crestview Partners, KKR, Morgan Stanley Private Equity, Oaktree Capital Management, Quantum Energy Partners and Warburg Pincus. Keith Fullenweider is a pivotal member of the team and leads the firm’s relationship with a series of bulge-bracket private equity sponsors, including TPG. Matthew Strock, Stephen Gill and New York managing partner James Fox, who is close to Apollo and Riverstone, are also recommended. All named partners are based in Houston unless stated otherwise.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP’s practice has an impressive mix of big-ticket and middle-market private equity sponsor clients. American Securities and Onex are two of the firm’s more substantial clients, and it recently advised the former on its acquisition of Milk Specialties Global from Kainos Capital. Other clients include Centerbridge Partners, Halifax Capital Partners, JW Childs and NexPhase Capital. The firm has an excellent record in life sciences and healthcare, where it has leading Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expertise. Its standing in the security industry and in CFIUS and antitrust issues is also pivotal to the success of the practice. New York-based Emanuel Cherney, Stephen Koval and Lowell Dashefsky are key partners.

Boston’s Choate, Hall & Stewart added Stephen Meredith, Sarah Camougis and Christopher Nelson to its private equity practice in 2016 from Locke Lord LLP. It also brought in private equity funds formation partner Kimberley Kaplan-Gross from Cooley LLP. The new team has cemented existing client relationships, brought in new sponsor clients such as Great Hill Partners and reinforced its capabilities in the technology sector. The firm’s lower middle-market practice accounts for a high proportion of its overall revenues. Clients are typically based in Boston, though some, such as Mainsail Partners, hail from California. Other key clients include Summit Partners, Windjammer Capital, Riverside Partners, Spectrum Equity and Century Capital. The firm advised Windjammer on its $259m acquisition of Heritage Food Service Group from The Jordan Company. Brian Lenihan and TJ Murphy lead the team.

Hogan Lovells US LLP has broad national and international coverage and represents a multitude of clients across key offices in the US, most notably New York, Denver and Northern Virginia. Its strength in regulated industries makes it especially well known for deals in the life sciences, healthcare, technology and financial services sectors. Clients include KRG Capital Partners, Actis, Advent International, ACON Investments, Columbia Capital, One Rock Capital and Warburg Pincus. Deal highlights included advising KRG Capital on its $1bn sale of ATI Physical Therapy to Advent International. Key partners include New York-based Alex Johnson, New York and Denver partner George Hagerty, and Robert Welp in Northern Virginia.

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP has made considerable progress in the independent sponsor market, building on its already strong profile in the lower to middle-market segments. The team benefits from solid finance and tax credentials, and Saul Rudo, national head of the tax planning practice, is the relationship partner for many of the firm’s key private equity clients. The firm is especially strong in healthcare, business services, industrials, and consumer and retail. Highlights included advising Frontenac Company on its sale of AirTech and Ohio Transmission Corporation to Irving Place Capital. Other notable clients are Sterling Partners, Victory Park Capital, Prairie Capital and Centre Lane Partners. Chicago’s Kenneth Miller and Kimberly Smith head the practice, which also includes partners in Los Angeles and New York.

King & Spalding LLP is ‘incredibly responsive’, ‘detail oriented’ and ‘lawyers are knowledgeable, commercial, and great value for the cost of the service’. According to a client, responsiveness is ‘superior to any other firm’ and the firm is equally adept at aligning itself with a client’s interests and approach, ensuring a ‘remarkably positive experience’. The firm has an exceptional record in energy, healthcare, life sciences and real estate deals. Deal highlights included advising HIG Capital on its acquisition of Dominion Colour and assisting American Capital Equity with the sale of WRH to Charles River Laboratories. Arcapita and Roark Capital are major client. Atlanta-based Raymond Baltz is a key name.

New York’s Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP remains a strong player in the middle market for clients such as Stone Point Capital, Quad Partners and Shamrock Capital. It is particularly well known for financial services sector deals. It advised BlackRock on its acquisition of FutureAdvisor, a leader in digital wealth management, and assisted Stone Point with its acquisition of NFP’s Advisor Services business, which became branded Kestra Financial. Howard Spilko, James Moriarty, Ernest Wechsler and Thomas Molner are key partners.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP provides ‘very high-quality people at a reasonable price’. Wedded to the middle market, its core centers of US private equity expertise are Chicago and Miami. Chicago-based Andrew McCune and Miami’s Frederic Levenson, who is ‘very smart and commercial’, now lead the practice after the elevation of the ‘fantastic’ Harris Siskind to head of the global transactions group. HIG Capital is the firm’s marquee client in the space, although it also does work for Baird Capital, Blue Sea Capital, CenterGate Capital, Comvest Partners, JW Childs, Peak Rock Capital and New Harbor Capital Management. In 2016, it advised HIG Capital on its acquisition of Symplicity Corporation, and assisted new client Centergate Capital, a nascent fund created by former HIG Capital directors, on its investment into Vision Media Management. Healthcare, transportation, energy, life sciences, IT and technology are amongst its key sectors. Chicago’s Brooks Gruemmer is also recommended, along with New York-based Timothy Alvino, who has ‘great patience, tenacity and technical legal skills’ and ‘pays complete attention to the tiniest of details’.

Morrison & Foerster LLP has made significant progress in private equity through its New York office and expanding teams in San Francisco and Palo Alto. The national private equity team has an especially strong record in energy and technology deals through clients such as Blackstone Energy Partners, Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, First Reserve, OMERS Private Equity and Starwood Energy. In 2016, it advised Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners on its $860m acquisition of Holtwood from Talen Energy. New York’s Jonathan Melmed is recommended for energy deals.

Paul Hastings LLP reinforced its department by hiring San Francisco-based Steve Camahort, Michael Kennedy and Dana Kromm from Shearman & Sterling LLP in 2016; the new group’s clients include Francisco Partners, Symphony Technology Group and Vector Capital. The overall team is hailed as ‘outstanding’, ’accessible and very knowledgeable’, ‘skillful’ and ‘a pleasure to work with’; it is recommended for its ‘full complement of specialties’, which include bankruptcy and restructuring, M&A, antitrust and litigation. The private equity team is principally spread across the firm’s offices in California and Chicago, and key clients include Pfingsten Partners, GI Partners and HIG Capital. Highlight deals included advising GI Partners, in partnership with Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, on the $950m acquisition of Netsmart Technologies. Orange County’s William Simpson and Brandon Howald and Los Angeles-based Robert Miller are highly recommended.

Shearman & Sterling LLP lost San Francisco partners Steve Camahort, Michael Kennedy and Dana Kromm to Paul Hastings LLP in 2016. Michael Dorf is the key remaining partner in San Francisco and advises big name clients such as technology-focused Francisco Partners, which he assisted with the purchase of Dell Software alongside Elliott Management. In the New York office, Scott Petepiece, head of Americas M&A, advises a number of buyout funds, sovereign wealth funds and pension funds such as Temasek and CPPIB. He advised Temasek on its acquisition of a minority interest in NYSE-listed Antero Resources. New York partner Robert Masella is also active in private equity buyouts.

Praised by clients for its strength in middle-market transactions, Winston & Strawn LLP provides a ‘full suite of services’ and the ‘requisite depth to run multiple deals simultaneously’. The firm ‘puts top partners on deals and can manage middle-market deals more economically’ than some competitors. It ‘invests’ in client relationships, supporting projects in the early stages without ramping up costs. The firm continued to build out the core private equity team and key support practices, with hires such as securities specialist Joel Rubinstein from McDermott Will & Emery LLP and sponsor-side finance expert Lynn Tanner from Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. Key clients include The Jordan Company, Baird Capital Partners, GenNx360 Capital Partners, Water Street Healthcare Partners, Norwest Equity Partners and Arbor Investments. The core buyout team is spread across New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, with New York-based Bradley Vaiana and Dominick DeChiara and Los Angeles’ Eva Davis as the joint practice heads.

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