03 Aug 2021

Sullivan, Kirkland and Weil top global M&A advisory league table in busiest July since 2007

Tech firms also prosper as deal value hits almost $500bn fuelled by fourth-highest month for SPAC transactions

Stuart Monk

Sullivan & Cromwell topped the global M&A advisory league table in July amid another bumper month that saw almost half a trillion dollars of deals – the second-busiest July on record, according to Refinitiv.

Some $499bn of M&A transactions were recorded worldwide, 15% higher than in June and 49% higher than last July when markets had started bouncing back from a pandemic-induced slumber in the early part of the year. July’s deals pushed year-to-date global M&A activity to a fresh record of $3.3tr. It was the busiest July since $503bn of deals were penned in 2007 in the run up to the financial crisis.

Sullivan & Cromwell advised on 19 deals worth $71bn last month, roughly $7bn more than its nearest rival Kirkland & Ellis, which worked on 60 deals worth $64bn (see table, below). Weil Gotshal & Manges ranked third having worked on 12 deals worth $47bn, including the largest of the month – a $32.5bn special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deal involving Medicare and Medicaid payments business MSP Recovery.

In total, 35 SPAC combinations were announced globally in July, the fourth highest monthly total for SPAC deals on record. Those deals were worth just shy of $102bn, only the second time SPAC deals have exceeded $100bn in a month.

Firms with a strong tech focus have benefited from the recent M&A surge. Lucille Jones, deals intelligence analyst at Refinitiv, said: “Technology was the leading sector by both value and by number of deal announcements during July 2021, with more than 800 deals worth a combined $93bn. Technology deals total $765bn so far during 2021, up 247% from last year and more than double the previous year-to-date record of $374bn recorded in 2000.”

Jones added that tech deals account for almost a quarter of global M&A value so far this year (23%), up from 14% over the same period in 2020 and the highest share since Refinitiv’s records began in 1980.

DLA Piper and Latham & Watkins completed the top five global M&A advisors for July having worked on 19 and 33 deals worth roughly $45.5bn and $45bn respectively.

Tech-focused firms featuring in the July top 20 include Cooley, which is advising its client Zoom on the month's third-largest  deal – the $14.6bn acquisition of Qatalyst Partners, advised by Latham and MoFo. Also making an appearance are fellow Silicon Valley firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Boston's Goodwin Procter, which hired seven partners in June from across Orrick, Jones Day and Latham to target tech M&A.

While the UK's magic circle firms don't make the top 20 by value, three firms without a major US presence do feature: sixth-ranked Herbert Smith Freehills, Allens (7th) and Ashurst (20th).

HSF and Linklaters' ally Allens are advising opposite each other on the month's second-largest deal: a $16.7bn takeover offer for Sydney Airport by a group of investors, which has been rejected.

Ashurst, meanwhile, is advising UK supermarket chain Morrisons on its $8.7bn takeover by a group of investors advised by Slaughter and May, Jones Day and Dechert.

Global M&A Deals July Ranked by Value


Rank Firm Value ($m) Deals
1 Sullivan & Cromwell 71486.9 19
2 Kirkland & Ellis 64209.4 60
3 Weil Gotshal & Manges 47094.3 12
4 DLA Piper 45467.4 19
5 Latham & Watkins 44988.7 33
6 Herbert Smith Freehills 36026.9 7
7 Allens 31896.5 3
8 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett 29521.8 22
9 Alston & Bird 26441.8 10
10 Cooley  24649.7 11
11 Debevoise & Plimpton 23726.9 16
12 Skadden 23685.7 18
13 Jones Day 20540 21
14 Morrison & Foerster 19239.3 10
15 Davis Polk & Wardwell 18638.3 10
16 Hogan Lovells 17988.7 12
17 Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 17467.5 6
18 Goodwin Procter 15166 23
19 Paul Weiss 14407.6 15
14189.9 5

Source: Refinitiv