06 Aug 2021

Gilbert + Tobin hires PwC corporate head to boost Sydney M&A team

Karen Evans-Cullen joins as new firm secures lead role advising on Australia's largest-ever merger

Portrait photograph of Karen Evans-Cullen

Karen Evans-Cullen

Australian firm Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) has hired M&A lawyer Karen Evans-Cullen from PwC as it seeks to bolster its corporate advisory and M&A practice in a booming M&A market.

Evans-Cullen arrives at the firm’s Sydney headquarters after four-and-a-half years at PwC, where she was head of corporate (legal) in Sydney. Prior to that she spent 23 years at Australian firm Clayton Utz, 15 of those as partner.

She joins the leading independent firm as it celebrates a key role as co-lead counsel alongside Wall Street’s Cravath Swaine & Moore advising ‘buy now, pay later’ payments platform Afterpay on its $29bn acquisition by San Francisco-based Square’d in what amounts to Australia’s largest-ever M&A deal. 

Australia’s M&A market is booming, with deals topping $174bn so far this year, according to Refinitiv data – the highest on record and about roughly six times the value of deals during the same period in 2020. That accounts for more than a fifth of transactions in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan), the highest share since 2011.

Evans-Cullen said she was joining G+T “at a time when advising on deals requires access to a broad range of capabilities and experience to achieve the best outcomes for clients”.

She added: “The M&A market is very buoyant at the moment and looks like continuing in this vein to the end of the year, with the driving factors being extremely low cost of capital, share market valuations rebounding after the covid hit –  meaning target boards have the confidence to execute deals – and the need to refocus strategically having come out of the crisis environment caused by the pandemic.”

Evans-Cullen has been involved in a number of high-profile Australian deals across a broad range of sectors and is a member of the Australian Takeovers Panel, a government-appointed peer review body.

In a joint statement, Costas Condoleon and Neil Pathak, co-heads of the firm’s corporate advisory practice, said: “Karen’s deep experience and client connectivity, commitment to excellence and outstanding credentials will add to our corporate/M&A team, which focuses on advising clients on their most significant transactions.”

Her arrival at G+T follows the loss of two M&A partners to Clifford Chance in May – David Clee and Elizabeth Hill – whose practice focused on public and private M&A, IPOs and distressed transactions.

M&A partners Peter Cook and Rachael Bassil are leading the G+T team acting for Afterpay. The line up for Square’d, meanwhile, is New York's Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz and King & Wood Mallesons. 

G+T also advised the PowAR consortium – comprising Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC), the Future Fund and AGL Energy – on its $2.1bn take private of New Zealand renewables energy platform Tilt Renewables, which completed yesterday (5 August).

At the start of July, G+T promoted 14 lawyers to special counsel across its Sydney, Melbourne and Perth offices in line with its future growth plans.

In April, Squire Patton Boggs hired corporate partner Michael Gajic in Sydney from MinterEllison, which saw six corporate and banking partners depart for Corrs Chambers Westgarth last month.