Silicon Valley is buzzing over reports that Palm Inc. is looking for a buyer.
That it's come to this for the struggling smart phone maker isn't surprising, but the law firm advising them is.
If there is a deal, Davis Polk & Wardwell will be doing the M&A work, according to two people familiar with the situation. Until 2008, Palm's corporate work had been the domain of Palo Alto, Calif., giant Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for the better part of a decade.
As Palm general counsel Mary Doyle remarked in 2006, "I would have to say that Wilson Sonsini is our No. 1 go-to when it comes to corporate and securities work."
But in 2008, Palm started using Davis Polk for big corporate work, according to public filings. The change came after Eric Benhamou, chairman of Palm's board since 1999, left in a 2007 management shakeup. Benhamou is close with Wilson Chairman Larry Sonsini, according to a person familiar with the situation.
In December 2008, Menlo Park, Calif., partner William Kelly led a team of Davis Polk lawyers advising Palm when Elevation Partners pumped another $100 million into the company. Then, in a March 2009 public offering that raised more than $200 million, Palm once again turned to Davis Polk. In that deal, Wilson Sonsini lawyers were actually on the other side of the table representing the banks.
While Davis Polk took over big chunks of corporate work, Palm hired Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's Stephen Fackler to do its stock plans, according to SEC filings. Those also had been done by Wilson lawyers in years past.
Called for comment, Davis Polk, Wilson Sonsini and Gibson Dunn lawyers said they weren't authorized to comment. Palm didn't return an e-mail seeking comment.
Bloomberg first reported on Monday that Palm was seeking bids for the company. The struggling company staked its future on the smooth pebble-shaped Palm Pre last year, but wasn't able to take a bite out of the iPhone-dominated market.
Taiwanese phone maker HTC Corp. and the Lenovo Group have looked at the company, according to the Bloomberg report. Currently embroiled in a patent war with Apple Inc. over smart phones, HTC would be able to stock up on ammunition for the fight with a purchase of Palm and its large patent portfolio.
Wilson Sonsini had a long history with Palm. The firm handled the deal when 3Com Corp. spun Palm off in 2000, and then handled Palm's spinoff of PalmSource and acquisition of Handspring in 2003.