Although mergers and acquisitions activity decreased dramatically from historic highs in 2021, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett expanded its share of M&A work and was the top M&A adviser in 2022 in terms of deal value.
Simpson Thacher advised on 196 deals worth nearly $424 billion last year and led the deals by principal table every quarter. Its lawyers represented Microsoft in its $69 billion all-cash acquisition of Activision Blizzard; represented private equity firm Silver Lake in VMware’s $61 billion sale to Broadcom; and advised Twitter in its $44 billion sale to Elon Musk — three of the year’s biggest deals.
While global deal activity totaled just $3.6 trillion in 2022, a decline of approximately one third from 2021, Simpson Thacher’s share of the market jumped from 9.5% to 17.1%.
According to Frank Aquila, a senior M&A partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, a myriad of factors contributed to the overall decline in deals, including high inflation, interest rate hikes by central banks, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“These events conspired to make what was going to be a down year a fairly tepid year,” Aquila said. “Overall, it was a good year, but certainly not the year that it had been expected to be or it could have been.”
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advised on 74 deals worth $322 billion in 2022 — good enough for second place. It was followed by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which advised on 194 deals totaling $258 billion.
In terms of principal, Kirkland & Ellis and Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer filled out the top five.
Meanwhile, Kirkland was number one in the global rankings by deal count once again in 2022. The firm advised on 793 deals totaling $253 billion. Cooley LLP came in second in number of deals with 590 (worth $85 billion).
By deal count, DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins, and Goodwin Procter rounded out the top five.
Looking ahead, M&A lawyers in general are approaching 2023 optimistically. Some are already seeing good signs, while others believe deal activity will increase significantly in the second half of the year.
“Notwithstanding the interest rate increases, we are pretty certain that whether or not we technically have a recession this year in the United States, it will be fairly shallow and short-lived,” Aquila said.