While Freshfields and Linklaters take the top spots as team players, Slaughters' Underhill pushes out alone on value
Slaughter and May corporate partner William Underhill is streets ahead of his competitors in European M&A, bringing in deals worth nearly 25 per cent more than his closest rival. In the nine months leading up to the end of September, Underhill notched up six deals, worth a total of £42.4bn. Lagging a considerable way behind is Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton's New York partner Victor Lewkow, who brought in two deals, worth a total of £32.6bn. Hot on his heals is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer senior partner Anthony Salz, who secured three deals with a total value of £30.9bn. Last year, Linklaters & Alliance's head of corporate David Cheyne came top, with a total of £53.6bn from 13 deals. This year, after three quarters, Cheyne is running 20th. Slaughters head of corporate Nigel Boardman also featured prominently last year, advising on 15 transactions worth £41.9bn, although this year he did not appear in the top 20. Freshfields' James Davis brought in 10 deals, which was the largest number by a single partner, although the total value of all the deals came to just £4.182bn. His biggest client was Compass Group, but he also advised Close Brothers on its acquisition of KC Finance. Despite Underhill winning hands down as the partner notching up the highest value, Slaughters was ranked only fifth overall in terms of value, and only sixth in terms of volume. Freshfields has had a good run, leading the table in terms of value. It benefited when Linklaters was conflicted out on a BT deal and so was brought in to advise on the sale of assets in Spain and Japan. It has also been sidelining Lovells as Prudential's preferred adviser. However, according to Freshfields head of corporate Barry O'Brien, the firm also lost out because of conflicts, including work for BHP and PowerGen, which went to Slaughters. The results challenge those fears of a global recession in M&A. O'Brien said: "The overall value of the deals is down, but the number of deals remains reasonably consistent."