DealPulse’s reigning king of M&A for 2023 is Gibson Dunn’s Andrew Kaplan. The young star – just 12 years out of law school and became a partner in 2021 – bested industry veterans for the crown.
While 2023 was a trying year for global M&A, U.S. rainmakers propped the floodgates open for megadeals. From Exxon Mobil Corporation’s $64.5 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources Company to ONEOK, Inc.’s $60 billion acquisition of Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P., large deals were announced in spite of the economic headwinds caused by inflation, geopolitical concerns, and spiking interest rates. As cash became more expensive, many companies and investors expressed decreased appetite for acquisitions, but the nation’s top M&A attorneys remained busy.
DealPulse’s M&A database tracks publicly-announced deals over $25 million in value, harnessing both AI and attorneys to digest the granular deal points of each transaction to allow for comparisons across industries, specific deal terms, and both legal and financial advisors. In addition to deal points, the databases track the law firms and individual attorneys disclosed for each deal, enabling this curated list. For this analysis, the data focuses on deals valued at over $5 billion that were announced during 2023.
The Exxon/Pioneer deal’s whooping price tag propelled this year’s top 2 attorneys into the lead. Gibson’s M&A dream team of Andrew Kaplan, Tull R. Florey, and Jeffrey A. Chapman represented Pioneer on the deal – but one deal alone is not enough to make this list. In fact, Chapman missed the list because that was his only mega deal announced during the year, while Kaplan advised also on Elliott Investment Management’s $7.1 billion acquisition of Syneos Health, Inc. and Florey advised also on Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc.’s $5.4 billion acquisition of NexTier Oilfield Solutions.
This was not the only deal in town, however, as ONEOK’s $60 billion acquisition of Magellan Midstream Partners propelled Kirkland Ellis’s Sean Wheeler into the bronze position. Wheeler also sat across from Florey as he advised NexTier Oilfield Solutions.
While the total value of deals may have dropped by approximately 23% this year to the levels not seen since 2013, M&A showed signs of recovery. “M&A activity in 2023 was subdued, as dealmakers grappled with geopolitical tensions, inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing regulatory scrutiny, against a backdrop of general economic uncertainty,” as Morrison Foerster puts it, “But deals got done.” With inflation seemingly tamed, interest rates stabilized, and improving credit markets, we can look forward to more mega deals in 2024. Will Andrew Kaplan and the Gibson Dunn hold onto their crown?