Wachtell misses out as Sullivan grabs $67bn AT&T deal

Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Sullivan & Cromwell have scooped the lead roles on the mammoth $67bn merger between US telecoms companies AT&T and BellSouth.

However, elite New York M&A boutique Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz appears to have lost out on a role after AT&T, a Wachtell client of many years, was acquired last year by Sullivan client SBC Communications.

Fried Frank and Sullivan have both benefited from the loyalty of longstanding clients in the deal. Sullivan is a longstanding legal adviser to SBC and represented it on its acquisition of AT&T last year. Wachtell acted for AT&T on that deal but has failed to hang on to the client for this year’s mega-deal. Wachtell partner Dan Neff said it was “disappointing” not to be involved in the deal but that there was “no legitimate expectation” that SBC, the new owner of AT&T, would instruct his firm on the deal. BellSouth is a regular client of Fried Frank’s.

The deal sees a repeat of the legal teams in the 2004 $41bn takeover of AT&T Wireless (a joint venture between BellSouth and SBC Communications) by Cingular Wireless. In that deal Fried Frank corporate partners Philip Richter and Jonathan Adler represented BellSouth while Sullivan & Cromwell partner Joseph Frumkin advised SBC.

In the current $67bn deal, the world’s largest M&A transaction so far this year, corporate partners Richter, Arthur Fleischer and Peter Golden are leading the Fried Frank team while Frumkin and Eric Krautheimer are leading the team for Sullivan.