Last year eircom dominated the Irish M&A market, but this year it was Madison Dearborn Partners' acquisition of the Jefferson Smurfit Group
The e3.7bn (£2.37bn) acquisition by the US private equity house was Europe's largest ever leveraged buyout and massively skews the Thomson Financial league tables. Irish firms Arthur Cox and William Fry picked up the prime roles on the deal. Those firms involved in even the smallest way on Smurfit will be at the top of the Thomson Financial league tables for this year. Indeed, the eight law firms currently at the top of the table worked on the deal. Arthur Cox, Ashurst Morris Crisp, William Fry, Kirkland & Ellis, Shearman & Sterling, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz and Allen & Overy all worked on Smurfit in some capacity. Just how much the deal skews the M&A tables is evidenced by the fact that White & Case, the next firm down the list, worked on deals worth just $364m (£238.2m) in comparison with the Smurfit gang's $4.3bn (£2.81bn)-plus. William Fry acted for long-term client Smurfit, with chairman Houghton Fry leading on the deal. Wachtell provided US law advice. Fry said: "Smurfit has been a client for 30-40 years, and while this was a huge deal it was just another transaction for us. We'd expect to continue to look after them." Kirkland & Ellis and Arthur Cox advised Madison Dearborn. The current Thomson M&A figures belie how quiet Ireland's M&A market is. On 31 July this year, $5.9bn (£3.86bn) worth of deals had been done. In the whole of last year, Ireland saw only $5.1bn (£3.34bn) worth of deals. However, take out Smurfit, valued by Thomson at $4.3bn (£2.81bn), and you have just $1.6bn (£1.05bn), suggesting that very few big deals are taking place.