Cold Remedy: Am Law 100 Firms Load Up on Pharma M&A

, The Am Law Daily

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Pharmaceutical M&A got a late-year shot in the arm, with nearly $10 billion in deals being announced involving major industry players like AstraZeneca and Bayer as 2013 came to a close. A bevy of Am Law 100 firms have picked up key advisory roles on the transactions.

Covington & Burling, which represented Salix Pharmaceuticals last month on the company's $2.6 billion bid for gastrointestinal drug maker Santarus, is now advising AstraZeneca in connection with its agreement to pay up to $4.1 billion to Bristol-Myers Squibb for a stake in an alliance to jointly develop diabetes drugs.

Catherine Dargan, cochair of Covington’s M&A practice and a member of its management committee, is leading a team from the firm advising AstraZeneca on the matter. Covington advised the London-based pharmaceutical giant last year on its nearly $1.3 billion acquisition of Ardea Biosciences and took the lead for AstraZeneca’s biologics research arm, MedImmune, in October on its $440 million purchase of privately held biotechnology company Spirogen. Covington corporate and life sciences transactions partners Stephen Infante and Amy Toro took the lead for MedImmune on that deal, and both are also part of the team advising AstraZeneca on the agreement announced last week with Bristol-Myers.

Other Covington lawyers working on the Bristol-Myers deal include corporate and life sciences of counsel Edward Dixon, IP and life sciences partner Lucinda Osborne, antitrust vice chair James Dean Jr., antitrust partner Miranda Cole, regulatory partners Michael Labson and Grant Castle, labor and employment partners Christopher Walter and Robert Newman, corporate special counsel Scott Roades and associates Larry Bartenev, Robin Blaney, Sarah Griffiths, Magdalina Gugucheva, Christopher Hartsfield, Bud Jerke, James Toy and James Wawrzyniak Jr.

Davis Polk & Wardwell tax partners Neil Barr and Jonathan Cooklin are serving as U.S. and U.K. tax counsel to AstraZeneca along with counsel Gregory Hannibal and associates Dominic Foulkes and Isaac MacDonald. Cooklin joined Davis Polk last year from Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

AstraZeneca, which had at one point tamped down its dealmaking endeavors to focus on research and development, shuffled its management ranks earlier this year. The company turned to Greenberg Taurig’s U.K. arm Greenberg Traurig Maher in the wake of the shakeup for counsel on its $1.15 billion acquisition over the summer of Pearl Therapeutics, according to our previous reports.

Jeffrey Pott has served as AstraZeneca's general counsel since 2009, while Swedish lawyer Katarina Ageborg is the company's chief compliance officer. Another attorney, Lynn Tetrault, heads the drug maker's human resources and corporate affairs departments.

U.S. Senate records show that AstraZeneca, like many pharmaceuticals companies, maintains an active lobbying presence on Capitol Hill. The company has paid $240,000 and $150,000 through the third quarter of this year to Washington, D.C.’s Williams & Jensen and Tarplin, Downs & Young, respectively, for lobbying work on prescription drug benefits and U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues. (Tarplin Downs is a three-woman health care shop formed in 2006, according to sibling publication Legal Times.)

Bristol-Myers, which Senate records show has paid $190,000 so far this year to lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs, has turned to Kirkland & Ellis for counsel on the sale of its global diabetes business to AstraZeneca.

Kirkland corporate partners Sean Rodgers and Joshua Zachariah are leading a team advising New York–based Bristol-Myers. Corporate partners David Fox, Daniel Wolf, Patrick Huard and associates Patrick Jacobs and Danielle Quinn also have roles in the matter.

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