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In a record year for mergers and acquisitions, New York law firms last year continued to dominate the landscape, handling the most valuable deals in New Jersey. Of the 30 largest New Jersey deals last year — totaling $155.35 billion — 26 New Jersey corporations turned to New York law firms, according to information compiled by Thompson Financial Securities Data in Newark, N.J. The remaining four companies did not disclose the names of the law firms. The firm used most frequently — by five corporations — is Dewey, Ballantine of New York. Second was Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, being involved in four transactions, although in two matters it represented the financial adviser rather than the corporation. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson was third, representing three corporations. It’s not surprising that New York firms garner the bulk of the large transactions, says GPU Inc. general counsel Ira Jolles, whose Morristown company was acquired by First Energy Corp. of Ohio last August. He says New York firms are regarded as having the most experience and familiarity with the practice. GPU hired Fried, Frank to oversee the $10.9 billion deal. New York City firms were the ones at the forefront of the merger and acquisition trend beginning nearly 20 years ago, Jolles says. “Even when New Jersey firms are in there, there may very well be a New York firm behind it,” Jolles says. “The New York firms are truly expert in this stuff.” Fried Frank also supervised the $23.7 billion hostile takeover of Bestfoods in Englewood by England’s Unilever Corp. in May and the nearly $914 million acquisition of security brokers Herzog Heine Geduld by Merrill Lynch & Co. in June. The top 30 New Jersey transactions last year ranged from $679 million to $50.1 billion. Each one involved a New Jersey target or acquirer. Nine were in the telecommunications or software industry, five in manufacturing, four in health care or pharmaceuticals and four in the food industry. The biggest New Jersey deal was General Electric’s acquisition of Honeywell International Inc., for which Honeywell reached out to New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The company had negotiated a contract with United Technologies Corp. when GE swooped in and offered a more lucrative deal under the same terms, says Honeywell general counsel Peter Kreindler. The deal with GE was hashed out in two days after that and is expected to close this quarter, says Kreindler, who participated in the negotiations. “It’s the biggest industrial merger ever,” he says. In many cases, the New Jersey transactions are big even by New York law firm standards. When Weil, Gotshal & Manges of New York represented Summit Bancorp, acquired for $7 billion by FleetBoston Financial Corp., it was one of the firm’s biggest deals for the year, says partner Stephen Jacobs. And although the value of the bargain was in the billions, the negotiations themselves were fairly routine, says Jacobs. “The size of the transaction doesn’t necessarily relate to its complexity,” says Jacobs, noting that Weil Gotshal oversaw 45 business deals worth $150 million or more last year. See Related Chart

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