Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Kevin Arquit has landed at the top among antitrust lawyers with a headline-grabbing caseload in recent years. Arquit, 55, was on the Simpson Thacher team advising Sirius Satellite Radio in its deal with XM Satellite Radio, a merger that created plenty of noise as consumer groups and some broadcasters lined up to oppose the deal back in 2007. “There was a lot of concerted opposition and lobbying to get the Justice Department to stop this merger,” said Arquit, 55, a partner at New York-based Simpson Thacher since 2003. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division ended its investigation and found the $4.9 billion deal wasn’t likely to substantially lessen competition.

Forest products giant Weyerhaeuser Co. brought on Arquit for appellate advocacy, and in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a $79 million jury award in an antitrust suit against Weyerhaeuser. Arquit was on the team that urged the court to grant a petition for certiorari.

Arquit advised the online advertisement server DoubleClick amid Google Inc.’s $3.1 billion acquisition of it, a deal that was subject to an eight-month Federal Trade Commission investigation. The FTC declared in 2007 it would not block the deal, which was approved without conditions in the United States and in Europe. Arquit was on the Simpson Thacher antitrust team that counseled Wyeth in Pfizer Inc.’s $68 billion acquisition, which the FTC cleared last year.

“There’s a huge satisfaction of seeing your matters come to an end,” said Arquit, who owns five satellite radios, including a portable one that he uses for travel and in his office. Arquit said he’s a fan of country and classical — and a 24/7 NASCAR talk station. A former general counsel of the Federal Trade Commission and director of its bureau of competition, Arquit is a past chair of the International Bar Association’s Antitrust and Trade Law Committee.

Arnold & Porter

With more than 30 years in antitrust and trade regulation in Washington, it was no surprise that William Baer’s name came up for key slots at the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration.

Baer, 59, rejoined Arnold & Porter in 2000 after a five-year stint as director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition — he had been with the firm since 1980 — and he was soon back in full swing. Baer, who chairs Arnold & Porter’s antitrust group, counts as clients General Electric Co., Visa Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. After his return to Arnold & Porter, Baer helped semiconductor manufacturer Micron Technology obtain amnesty from criminal charges in exchange for cooperation in a price-fixing investigation with DOJ. In 2003, Baer counseled Pfizer Inc. in its $60 billion acquisition of Pharmacia Corp., a deal that required the divestiture of pharmaceutical products to settle FTC charges that the merger would violate antitrust laws.

He prefers to work quietly behind the scenes. “I like the challenge of bridging differences.”

These days, he is lead antitrust counsel for General Electric in Comcast Corp.’s proposed $30 billion transaction to acquire 51% of NBC Universal. It could take a year or more before the deal clears regulatory hurdles.

“I don’t like sharp edges,” Baer said. “I like plain talk and good humor. That’s sort of the approach I bring.”

His practice, he said, is largely split between criminal antitrust matters and mergers and acquisitions. Baer trumpets his public service experience as giving him the perspective needed to navigate the regulatory world of FTC and Justice Department antitrust enforcement. “I try to approach a client’s problem with common sense and with some appreciation for the government’s legitimate objective in investigating a matter,” he said.

Jones Day

Joe Sims, 65, has made big business bigger. In the past decade, he has busted through antitrust barriers to some of the decade’s largest deals. “There’s no connection whatsoever between how difficult a deal is and how much attention it gets in the media,” said the Jones Day Washington partner. He should know. Ten years ago, he represented America Online Inc. in its $109 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. In the end, the FTC required only minimal concessions to approve the deal, but the merger — the largest ever at the time — triggered “sky-is-falling-down concerns from the media and consumer groups,” Sims said.

It was good preparation for his current assignment: representing Comcast Corp. in its pending bid for NBC Universal.

Sims has succeeded in winning approval for mergers that raised classic antitrust issues, such as the 2004 merger of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the second and third largest players in the industry. “Everyone said we had no chance,” Sims said. “But the facts didn’t support antitrust concerns.”

He received a green light for another two/three combination, the 2008 joint venture between SABMiller PLC and Molson Coors Brewing Co. The key to that deal, he said, was showing the “enormous efficiencies” it generated.

Other major deals of the decade include representing Sirius Satellite Radio in its merger with XM Satellite Radio, Chevron Corp.’s acquisition of Unocal Corp. and Nextel Communication Inc.’s combination with Sprint.

Sims’ influence goes beyond his track record of winning approval for deals. He’s also seen the Jones Day attorneys he mentored, Charles James and Deborah Majoras, go on to lead the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the FTC. Key to his success? “The approach I’ve always advocated is telling a story, as opposed to getting lost in the technical and economic details,” Sims said.