Law Street Media

Q2 Roundup: Kirkland Back on Top as U.S. Leads M&A Recovery

Abstract graphic world map illustration on blue background, big data and networking concept. 3D Rendering

Abstract graphic world map illustration on blue background, big data and networking concept. 3D Rendering

Global M&A rebounded 22% during the first half of 2024 as compared to last year, driven by U.S. activity, which surged 46% to $746 billion in deal value. In fact, U.S. M&A accounted for over half of the world’s activity – representing the largest share since 2019. Europe likewise rose 43% while Asia-Pacific M&A declined 21% in deal value. While analysts as Nasdaq see the first half’s results as a reawakening, others at PwC interpret the data differently to describe the current climate as “a thick fog of uncertainty.” 

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. The financial services and energy sectors have been the key drivers so far this year as mega deals in each spurred rebounding volume. Private equity-back M&A increased by 40% as firms sought to deploy their historically-high levels of dry powder. 

In fact, the two largest deals of the quarter were in these two sectors and one involved a private equity firm: ConocoPhillips’s acquisition of Marathon Oil for $22.5 billion and PE firm Silver Lake’s $13 billion acquisition of Endeavor Group. These two deals alone propelled each of this quarter’s leaders into the coveted top 5.

Notably absent from last quarter’s top 5, Kirkland came roaring back to take the top spot. In fact, the firm was seemingly everywhere this quarter, advising on 6 large deals announced. Not only did Kirkland advise Marathon Oil, but the firm also advised Silverlake, in addition to partaking in the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Global Infrastructure Partners’ $6.2 billion acquisition ALLETE as well as Bain Capital’s $5.6 billion purchase of PowerSchool Holdings. These megadeals gave Kirkland a comfortable lead over Wachtell, which came in second place again this quarter – their same spot as in Q1. 

No stranger to the top 5, Wachtell advised on 3 large deals, including ConocoPhillips, as well as Independent Bank Group, Inc. in its $2 billion acquisition by SouthState and Heartland Financial in its $2 billion purchase by UMB Financial – riding the wave of energy and financial services deals announced.

Latham is back in the top 5 this quarter, taking the third spot. Latham attorneys advised Endeavor Group and Global Infrastructure. 

Rounding out the top 5 are Simpson Thacher and Cravath. Simpson Thacher took part in two large deals this quarter, advising Silver Lake alongside Kirkland as well as Snap One on its $1.4 billion acquisition by Resideo Technologies. Finally, Cravath came in fifth by advising Endeavor Group alongside Latham. 

Analysts are mixed on the months ahead, with some anticipating strong activity while others are more cautious. “The lower levels of M&A activity over the past two and a half years have created pent-up demand (and supply), particularly in the private equity (PE) universe,” as PwC reports. Because, after all, “[t]he M&A show must go on, even if the timing is uncertain.”  

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