Linklaters corporate partner Stephen Boughton has scorned reports that the advisory fees for the world's largest ever deal - the £43bn SmithKline-Glaxo merger - could be as high as £400m. "I can't understand how they have got such a large figure," he said.
His comments follow a claim by Philip Healey, the editor of Acquisitions Monthly, that the accountants, lawyers and financial advisers acting on the deal would receive £400m.
He speculated that much of this would go to the lawyers because of the regulatory hurdles the deal will have to cross before it can complete.
However, Boughton thought the £400m figure was unrealistically high.
Listing particulars for the £98bn Grand Met-Guinness merger showed that all advisers shared almost £100m in fees. Healey estimated it at £150m and said that it was "quite feasible that this latest merger would involve some mind-blowingly large pay days for the advisers involved".
Boughton, who is leading the Linklaters team advising SmithKline Beecham on the merger with Glaxo Wellcome, said he could not comment on the likely fee level. "I don't know what the investment bankers' fee arrangements are," he said.
Boughton said he was taking a "chief executive" day-to-day role on the deal while senior partner Charles Allen-Jones was more of a "non-executive chairman" on the deal.
Glaxo Wellcome is being advised by a team from its principal corporate lawyers Slaughter and May, led by Glenn James and Michael Pescod.
Back in January 1995 Glaxo used its other main law firm Clifford Chance to advise it on its acquisition of Wellcome but only, said Steve Cowden, Glaxo's group company secretary, because Slaughters had been conflicted out.
Herbert Smith corporate partner Anthony Macaulay is heading the team advising Lazards, Glaxo Wellcome's financial adviser. Glaxo's legal team is being co-ordinated by its director of legal and corporate affairs, Jeremy Strachan.
The huge deal is bound to keep Slaughters and Linklaters at the top of the corporate deals league tables for 1998.
But Freshfields missed out. Corporate partners Anthony Salz and Will Lawes were instructed to advise the US pharmaceutical company AHP on its initial merger talks with SmithKline, which collapsed when Glaxo made an offer to merge with SmithKline two weeks ago.