Late last year, Skadden underlined both its public company M&A credentials and its reputation for energy sector-related deals when it scooped Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to advise Chevron on its $4.3bn acquisition of Atlas Energy.
More recently the deals titan, number one in Thomson Reuters’ energy-dominated global M&A tables last year, repeated the trick when it represented longtime Sidley Austin client Exelon Corporation on its $7.9bn acquisition of Constellation Energy (represented by Kirkland & Ellis).
Skadden’s barnstorming energy regulation and litigation practice, headed by the highly respected former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Ferc) commissioner Clifford ’Mike’ Naeve and which also features former Ferc general counsel John Moot, also popped up to handle the antitrust aspects of Duke Energy’s $13.7bn tie-up with Progress Energy in January, while the firm’s utility credentials were further underlined by its representation of AES Corporation’s $4.7bn acquisition of DPL, the second-largest utility deal at the time in 2011.
But Skadden isn’t only about M&A. On the disputes side London-based partner David Kavanagh successfully ’stopped the clock’ for Alfa Access Renova, the group of Russian billionaires and TNK-BP shareholders who blocked the $16bn alliance between BP and Rosneft by securing an injunction earlier this year.
The foundations of Skadden’s energy practice were laid in 1981, when the firm launched an energy group with new partners, including former key officials from the US Department of Energy D0E), while Skadden recognised the importance of Texas back in 1993 when it opened an office in Houston.
“Our energy practice has been a long-term build, not a recent reaction to current activity levels’,” says Skadden chairman Eric Friedman. “Energy is an example of our overall strategy in relation to combining our regulated industry expertise with our corporate transaction experience. Everyone’s chasing energy today, but we developed our energy practice over the last 30 years.”
That said, the firm’s rivals have refered to Skadden’s five-partner Houston office as “a maildrop”, a criticism it strongly rejects, highlighting its involvement in three of the top five Texas M&A deals of 2010.
Indeed, other rivals point to office head John Ale as “a well-known energy lawyer in town”.
Skadden is among the leading firms advising clients on renewable energy projects funded by the DoE loan guarantee programme. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorised the DoE to guarantee up to $65bn in loans for the construction of solar, wind and other renewable and electric transmission projects.
Skadden advised on the first transmission project to receive a DoE loan guarantee and is currently handling more than a dozen such transactions involving more than $10bn.
Power remains Skadden’s cornerstone sector, reflected in the succession of M&A deals on which it has recently advised as well as the high-profile project finance practice (where the ’wonderful’, according to one rival, energy and infrastructure projects group co-head Hal Moore is particularly noted). Indeed, in contrast to most of Skadden’s white shoe rivals – with the exception of Sullivan & Cromwell – project finance remains in fashion at the firm.
Skadden is also gearing up for the increased need it perceives for major transmission projects, such as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones lines in Texas.
Internationally the US will remain Skadden’s number one market for the foreseeable future, with China and the Middle East – particularly Qatar, the significance of which is primarily derived from the North Field natural gas reservoir, its burgeoning renewables sector and the power demands of the 2022 Fifa World Cup – following hard on its heels.
Hal Moore, Mike Naeve, Doug Nordlinger, John Ale, John Moot
Top three sectors
Oil and gas
Top three geographical regions
Chevron’s $4.3bn acquisition of Atlas Energy
Lead partners:Charles Mulaney, L Byron Vance
AES Corporation’s $4.7bn acquisition of DPL
Client: AES Corporation
Lead partner: Pankaj Sinha
China Huaneng’s 50 per cent stake in InterGen from India-based GMR
Client: China Huaneng
Lead partner:Gregory Miao