Friday, February 25, 2011

M&A Deal Lawyer (1923-2011) Joseph Flom Leaves an Enduring Legacy

(1923 - 2011)

Joseph H. Flom (1923-2011) passed away yesterday at 87, but he leaves an enduring legacy for revolutionizing the legal landscape of mergers and acquisitions. Throughout his professional career, he was known as an aggressive and passionate lawyer who helped transform a small upstart into one of the world's most powerful corporate law firms. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom--which has more than 2,000 attorneys--is the largest United States law firm in terms of revenue ($2.2 billion in 2009).

Flom was noted for representing clients in high-profile hostile takeovers and proxy fights during the 1970s and '80s--a practice that profoundly changed Wall Street. He was a lawyer so skilled in this field that whenever a merger was announced, arbitrageurs immediately wanted to know whose side Flom was representing. Some of his most contentious cases included the following: Revlon takeover by Perelman; ABC sale; Chevron acquisition of Gulf Oil; Marathon Oil takeover by US Steel; Anheuser-Busch takeover by InBev.

Shareholder activists and corporate clients both eagerly fought to gain his counsel. Many clients established retainers with Flom that would ensure that they wouldn't be finding him on the other side. Retainers, indeed, have produced a substantial source of Skadden's income, since the firm first implemented the practice in the late '60s. According to Lincoln Calpan, author of Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire, by 1984 the number of corporations retaining the firm rose to around 300, each paying ~$150,000 a piece off the fee.

Flom was also active in philanthropic endeavors. He was founding trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, as well as a major supporter of cancer research and education. His support toward the community is noteworthy and continues to make a meaningful impact.

From humble origins to an indelible career on Wall Street, the M&A mastermind dealmaker will be deeply missed. His legacy lives on.

David Schatz