Shearman and Cravath advise as Japan’s Mizkan buys Unilever sauce units

Shearman & Sterling and Cravath Swaine & Moore have played lead roles in Japanese group Mizkan’s $2.15bn acquisition of Unilever’s North American pasta sauce businesses, Ragu and Bertolli.

Shearman & Sterling acted for the Japanese acquirer, alongside Japanese counsel Mori Hamada & Matsumoto (MHM). Shearman’s Tokyo corporate partner Kenneth Lebrun led the firm’s team in this transaction, while MHM’s advice was led by Tokyo partners Gaku Ishiwata and Shuhei Uchida.

It is the latest Western brands acquisition by the Japanese conglomerate, which is based in Tokyo.

In 2012, it bought UK’s Branston pickle brand and Sarson’s vinegar brand from Premier Foods. For the Branston deal, Mizkan instructed Ashusrt corporate partner Nick Bryans for advice, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Adrian Maguire acted for Premier Foods (30 October 2012). 

Cravath, Unilever’s regular US adviser, was again sought out by the client to advise on the latest disposal. The firm’s corporate partner and international practice head Mark Greene was the lead partner in this transaction.

Cravath, fielding Greene, has recently advised the Anglo-Dutch company on a strong of food disposals, including its $700m sale of gobal Skippy business to Hormel Foods and the sale of its Wish‑Bone and Western dressings brands to Pinnacle Foods for $580 million.

In Europe, Unilever has kicked off its first formal panel review, which could formalise relationships with Slaughter and May, Mayer Brown and Baker & McKenzie among others (27 March 2014). The tender process is being organised by operations legal director Saswata Mukherjee.