Cleary and Sidley Austin advise Japan’s Suntory on $16bn US whiskey maker deal

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Sidley Austin have taken the lead roles in Japanese drinks maker Suntory’s $16bn (£9.7bn) acquisition of US spirits group Beam, the maker of Jim Beam.

Cleary is advising Osaka-based Suntory in this acquisition, which is the company’s biggest ever overseas transaction. The firm’s team is led by New York corporate partners Paul Shim and Benet O’Reilly.

Sidley Austin is acting for Beam, the maker of well-known brands such as Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Sauza tequila and Courvoisier cognac. The firm’s team is led by corporate partners Thomas Cole and Beth Flaming as well as senior counsel Fred Lowinger, all based in Chicago.

The deal is expected to close by 30 June, pending approval by Beam’s shareholders.

According to Thompson Reuters, Suntory’s acquisition of Beam is the third largest Japanese outbound transaction, after SoftBank’s $20bn acquisition of Sprint Nextel in 2012 (15 October 2012) and Japan Tobacco International’s $18.8bn acquisition of British tobacco company Gallaher in 2006.

Suntory has been a long-standing client of Cleary, which has been working with the client on their US matters for over 30 years. In the UK, it has recently worked with Clifford Chance as it expands its business in Europe.

Last year, the Japanese giant instructed Clifford Chance for its £1.35bn acquisition of drinks brands Ribena and Lucozade from GlaxoSmithKline, which was advised by Allen & Overy (9 September 2013).