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    January 10, 2011  


Companies have been hoarding cash, but the M&A market isn’t as strong as their cash stockpile would suggest. On Thursday, we met with Davis Polk’s global head of M&A, Gar Bason, to talk about his recent work in one of the largest ever acquisitions of a company in Russia by a US company.

Davis Polk’s global head of M&A Gar Bason

This may look like George Clooney pitching a Pepsi product, but that's Gar showing us a glass bottle of pop he keeps on his crowded deal toy shelf. He’s recently back from a four day trip in Moscow hammering out the final terms in client PepsiCo’s $3.8B purchase of a 66% stake in Moscow-based dairy and beverage company Wimm-Bill-Dann (pronounced like Wimbledon). He tells us that there’s been only a handful of large company acquisitions in Russia’s history, compared to thousands in the US over the last decade. The dearth of precedent, he says, led to an atypical focus on more basic principles during negotiations. Pepsi’s been in Russia for over 40 years, but, Gar says, it pulled the trigger on this deal because of its confidence in the compelling underlying fundamentals in the Russian economy. Did you know that only 8% of Russian households in ’01 had disposable income of more than $25k annually? By 2015, more than 75% of the country is expected to fit within this newly affluent category of cola-loving consumers.

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Davis Polk’s global head of M&A Gar Bason

Gar’s inked many mammoth deals in his 33-year run at the firm, including Exxon’s $81B merger with Mobil, Proctor & Gamble’s acquisition of Gillette, and Citigroup’s $306B loss protection agreement with the US gov’t, which earned him AmLaw’s Dealmaker of the Year in ’08. He promises he didn’t execute any of the deals with this giant pencil, an heirloom passed down from previous M&A chairs: Bob Lovejoy, Joel Cohen, and Dennis Hersch. It now rests in the corner of Gar’s office under some black and white photos he snapped during his travels through Asia. Gar’s been an avid traveler and amateur photographer for 41 years, often traveling through Asia, for business and pleasure, most recently in Tokyo this September for a one-day pitch. He tells us he once flew 18 hours to Taipei to make a two-hour presentation. He landed the business and came home the same day.




Wormser Kiely’s immigration chair Donald Wolfson

Most young attorneys hoping to work with A-list celebs think entertainment law is the best avenue. Not Wormser Kiely immigration chair Donald Wolfson, who recently completed all the immigration work allowing the wizards and ghouls in the Harry Potter cast to come to Universal Orlando for the opening of the new “Wizarding World” theme park. Donald showed us his authentic wand he likely procured on the streets of Hogsmeade. Donald tells us at 10 attorneys, his is one of the largest immigration practices within a general practice firm, and they’re growing: adding a NY office immigration head from an AmLaw 50 firm in the near future. Donald also reps several of the top French chefs in town (warning: salivating on keyboard not covered by warranty), and many stars at the American Ballet Theater including resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. He tells us this November he successfully navigated the Depts. of Treasury, State, and Commerce to get visas so 85 ABT members could participate in an international ballet festival in Cuba.



Justice Barbara Kapnick and Judge Michael Katz

Rising judicial star Michael Katz was inducted as a Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York Thursday afternoon, after working as principal court attorney to esteemed Commercial Division Justice Barbara Kapnick. Ranked as “most highly qualified” by four separate judicial screening panels, he now joins the ranks of NY state’s 1300 judges that handled 4.7 million cases in ’09 but haven’t had a raise in over 12 years (get with the program Albany). We snapped the judges at the reception following a standing room only induction ceremony in which distinguished speakers praised Michael’s “intellect, patience, modesty, and kindness.”

Justice Barbara Kapnick swears in Judge Michael Katz

Above, Justice Kapnick is administering the oath of office to Michael, proudly surrounded by supportive parents, his wife Meredith, and two children. Judge Kapnick says Michael originally came to her as a volunteer in a bad economy almost two decades ago. She joked that the jurist looked very young at the time, but took his word that he’d graduated law school. Highly impressed by his writing skill and legal reasoning ability, she quickly hired him for the fulltime position. This picture captures the moment he’s been working toward for the last 18 years. As Michael donned his judicial garb (furnished by Justice Kapnick and her mother) for the first time, he thanked her for teaching him what it means to wear the robe, and said he hopes to make her proud. We wish him a hearty congratulations.

New year, new stories! Send transactions, exciting wins, trends, hot topics, and especially event invites with gourmet food to Jeff.Gamsey@Bisnow.com
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