Linklaters, Latham shepherd VW’s $5bn joint venture with Tesla rival Rivian

Linklaters acts for longtime client VW on proposed partnership that will see Rivian’s technology used in both companies’ electric vehicles

Linklaters and Latham & Watkins have steered Volkswagen AG’s proposed joint venture with US electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive, in a deal that could see the German carmaker invest up to $5bn in the Tesla rival.  

Linklaters is acting for longtime client Volkswagen on the 50-50 venture, which will see the two companies create electrical vehicle architecture and software to be used in both companies’ future EVs. 

Meantime Latham is advising Rivian on Volkswagen’s initial $1bn investment through a note that will convert to stock at the start of December, subject to regulatory approvals. Volkswagen plans to invest up to $4bn more in Rivian and the JV over the next two years through a combination of a payment, stock investments and a loan. 

The JV comes as Volkswagen’s own software subsidiary, Cariad, grapples with years of delays and losses and continues the carmaker’s shift from a go-it-alone strategy to shoring up its EV capabilities through partnerships. Last year the carmaker called in Clifford Chance when it struck a deal with Chinese EV startup Xpeng to collaborate on software and a China-specific EV platform, though unlike that partnership the Rivian JV will not include the development of joint models. 

Meantime EV startups like Rivian have been struggling with a slowdown in demand amid high interest rates. The investment from Volkswagen will help the company, which has not posted a quarterly profit since it was founded in 2009, cut operating costs by leveraging volume of supplies and turn cashflow positive. 

Rivian will license its existing intellectual property to the JV, and its R2 SUV, set to be rolled out in early 2026, will be the first vehicle using software from the JV, Reuters reported. Volkswagen vehicles, including its Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini brands, will follow.

The Linklaters team guiding Volkswagen was led by global co-chairmen of corporate Ralph Wollburg in Düsseldorf and George Casey, who joined the firm in New York in January at the helm of a six-lawyer M&A group from legacy Shearman & Sterling, where he was global co-managing partner. Partner Heiko Schiwek, who co-led the Shearman group with Casey, was also a core member of the Linklaters team advising on the JV. 

Linklaters has advised Volkswagen on numerous transactions in the past, including Porsche’s blockbuster IPO in 2022, with the team again led by Wollburg. Last year the firm also advised the carmaker on the sale of its Russian assets to autodealer group Avilon for a reported $140m. 

The Latham team acting for Rivian was led by partners Tad Freese (corporate), Greg Rodgers (capital markets) and Sal Vanchieri (corporate finance). Last year the trio also led teams that represented Rivian in two green convertible senior notes offerings worth a combined $2.8bn, while in 2021 Marc Jaffe, managing partner of Latham’s New York office, led a capital markets team along with Freese and New York partner Alison Haggerty that advised Rivian on its $11.9bn IPO. 

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