An Alstom power plant in Az Zour, Kuwait. (Courtesy of Alstom)
UPDATES: 5/6/14, 8:35 a.m. EDT. The French government has said it will oppose GE’s bid for Alstom’s energy business. 5/6/14, 10:58 a.m. EDT. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe corporate partner Jean-Pierre Martel in Paris is advising Alstom’s board of directors in the matter.
Perhaps a little brotherly love can help bring together General Electric Company and French conglomerate Alstom’s energy unit.
GE has put in a $16.9 billion bid for the business, which makes up about 70 percent of the target’s operations. And sitting at the helm of GE is Jeffrey Immelt, the brother of Stephen Immelt, who on July 1 will become sole CEO of Hogan Lovells—one of a half-dozen firms advising Alstom on the negotiations between the two multinational companies.
U.K. publication Legal Week reported Friday that Hogan Lovells had grabbed a key role in the potential deal, and The Am Law Daily has confirmed that firm partner Jacques Derenne, head of Hogan Lovells’ antitrust, competition and market regulation practice in Brussels, is advising Alstom on the matter. Rachel Brandenburger, a foreign legal consultant and senior antitrust adviser in New York who joined the firm in February, is also counseling the suburban Paris–based company, according to Legal Week.
In December, Hogan Lovells announced that global cohead of litigation and arbitration Stephen Immelt would become the sole CEO of the 2,313-lawyer Swiss verein. The Am Law Daily reported at the time that Immelt was the brother of Jeffrey Immelt, who has served as CEO of GE since the retirement of longtime leader Jack Welch in 2000.
GE’s bid to buy Alstom’s energy business has attracted the interest of international rivals and the scrutiny of the French government. GE’s Jeff Immelt met last month with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the prospective deal, with Hollande recently saying publicly that he was not opposed to the transaction.
Reached by phone at his office in Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon, Hogan Lovells’ Immelt says he was unaware of his firm’s exact role on behalf of Alstom, but that as a litigator on the other side of the Atlantic he didn’t see any potential conflict. He declined further comment.
Alstom itself has been a longtime client of Hogan Lovells, a firm formed in late 2009 through the merger of Hogan & Hartson and London-based Lovells. A little more than a year ago this week, Hogan Lovells advised the company on the extension of a 9 billion euro bonding guarantee facility, and in December the firm counseled an Alstom affiliate on the development and financing for a carbon capture and storage project in England on the site of the Drax power station in North Yorkshire.
Last month Alstom turned to Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for counsel on its roughly $1 billion sale of a steam components and thermal power unit, according to our previous reports. Patton Boggs is also representing the company in a long-running bribery probe by the Justice Department that has resulted in charges against several former executives.
Alstom group general counsel Keith Carr—promoted to the role in February 2012—did not respond to a request for comment about the outside legal team retained to evaluate the offer by GE. Alstom has said publicly that it will consider the latter’s bid for its turbines unit but also accept a rival offer from German industrial giant Siemens, which wants access to the company’s books.
Legal Week reports that former Sullivan & Cromwell corporate partner Dominique Bompoint, who left the firm’s London office last year to set up his own shop, Cabinet Bompoint, has been retained by Alstom to advise on the offer by GE.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges—a longtime legal adviser to GE—is also counseling Alstom through Paris-based corporate partner David Aknin, who joined the firm more than a decade ago in a high-profile lateral move from Magic Circle firm Linklaters. (Aknin is currently advising French private equity firm Ardian on the $1.8 billion sale of food ingredients maker the Diana Group to Germany’s Symrise.)
A Weil spokeswoman was looking into the firm’s role for Alstom at the time of this story. Weil is currently representing GE on its effort to spinoff its North American retail finance unit Synchrony Financial through an initial public offering. Legal fees for the future listing are not yet available, according to SEC filings. The firm also handled GE’s $30 billion sale of a majority stake in NBCUniversal four years ago and a $3.3 billion repayment in 2011 to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway of a key investment during the financial crisis.
W. Geoffrey Beattie, a former partner at leading Canadian firm Torys, serves as an independent member of the board at GE. Former Goodwin Procter partner Brackett Denniston III, who in 2004 became general counsel of GE and now heads the Fairfield, Conn.–based company’s massive in-house legal department, did not respond to a request for comment about its external legal advisers on the Alstom engagement.
The Am Law Daily has confirmed that Arnold & Porter is representing GE in the U.S. and Europe on antitrust issues related to its effort to acquire Alstom’s energy assets. The lead partners working on the matter are Annette Schild in Brussels, Susan Hinchcliffe in London and U.S. antitrust chair Jonathan Gleklen in Washington, D.C., according to Legal Week.
Legal Week reports that Simon Baxter, a former Clifford Chance antitrust expert in Brussels who joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2010 to cohead its European antitrust and competition group, is also advising GE. Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May and French alliance partner Bredin Prat are serving as lead deal counsel to the U.S. conglomerate, according to Legal Week.
GE has several Am Law 100 lobbyists on its U.S. payroll. Patton Boggs’ Breaux Lott Leadership Group has received $750,000 since January 2013 for work on corporate tax reform and medical device legislation, while Sullivan & Cromwell was paid another $55,000 during that time frame for advice on financial services regulatory reform, according to records on file with the U.S. Senate. GE has also paid $280,000 to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for derivatives and swaps lobbying work since January 2013.