A&O’s Frankfurt office was contacted for the first time by Wella last October. Wella’s management called the firm in to advise on a possible divestment by the descendants of the founding Wella family of their controlling interest in the company.
This week, Wella’s descendant family Stroher, which has a 78 per cent shareholding, agreed to sell to US conglomerate P&G. As the takeover is friendly, A&O’s role under the new Germany takeover code is relatively small.
Wella considered several other major firms for the corporate work before settling on A&O. The company also has a relationship with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which it has retained for antitrust work on the deal.
A&O also benefited from rivals’ conflicts. Hengeler Mueller, for instance, has a relationship with Henkel, another possible suitor for Wella.
A&O was not the obvious choice for the instruction and the appointment reflects the firm’s growing reputation for corporate work.
It is relatively unusual in Germany for the corporate and antitrust work to be split on an M&A transaction, but A&O’s antitrust practice is minnow compared with that of Freshfields.
A&O partner Hans-Christoph Ihrig, who co-led the deal alongside German managing partner Arndt Overlack, also pointed out that Freshfields had advised the company on antitrust issues in the past and could offer continuity.
Although A&O is traditionally viewed as a banks’ firm, it has successfully targeted German corporates this year. In January, the finance practice attracted three new mandates from E.ON, TUI and Bertelsmann to advise on loans worth a combined €20m (£13.6m).
Gleiss Lutz partner Gerhard Wirth advised long-term client P&G on the acquisition. The Stroher family was advised by Shearman & Sterling and Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek.