Freshfields and Links partners among 500 lawyers drafted in on GSK JV with Novartis

Partners at Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are among the 500 lawyers to have cashed in on the billion-dollar joint venture between Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The pharmaceutical giants will swap assets as part of the deal, with GSK acquiring Novartis’ global vaccines unit, excluding its flu division, for $7.1bn. Novartis will take on GSK’s cancer drugs business for $16bn. 

In a conference call this morning, GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty said a total of 500 lawyers were involved in the deal. A spokesperson confirmed that this figure included external advisers and in-house lawyers on both sides, with GSK understood to have a global legal capacity of around 630 (14 January 2013).

Linklaters and Freshfields advised Novartis on the deal, with London managing partner Julian Long leading a team for Freshfields. Long acted for Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca in its merger with rival Novartis back in 1999 (12 June 1999) and has since advised on the €9.6bn sale of Swiss drug company Nycomed to the Japanese Takeda Pharmaceutical Company (20 May 2011).  

Meanwhile Linklaters fielded a team across its offices in Europe, America and Asia, though the firm would not comment on the exact number of lawyers involved on the deal. The team was led by London-based corporate partner James Inglis.  

Both firms are on Novartis’s legal panel, called the legal preferred firm programme, which was decided in 2012 (17 July 2012). The roster is comprised of 25 firms divided into four groups – global firms, US country firms, US country specialist firms and US country specialist intellectual property firms.

GSK, which will have majority control of the joint venture with an equity interest of 63.5 per cent, turned to long term adviser Slaughter and May on the deal. London-based partner Simon Nicholls is understood to have taken the lead for Slaughters, having previously advised GSK on a number of mandates including its sale of four pharmaceutical products to Aspen Global for £170m in 2008.

Novartis also announced today (22 April) that it would sell its animal health division to Eli Lilly for $5.4bn, with Freshfields acting for Novartis and Weil Gotshal & Manges acting for Eli Lilly.

Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said in a statement: “We believe the divestment of our smaller vaccines and animal health divisions will enable us to realize immediate value from these businesses for our shareholders, and those divisions will benefit from being part of large, global businesses that are also leaders in their segments. Patients will benefit from even higher levels of innovation that this focus may afford. Looking ahead, this positions Novartis well for future healthcare industry dynamics.”