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July 6, 2010 5:00 PM

Five Firms Grab Roles on Google's Travel Software Search Buy

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: July 7, 10:35 a.m. Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati are acting as lead antitrust counsel to Google in its acquisition of ITA Software. The firms declined to comment on the assignment. Hogan Lovells is serving as antitrust counsel to ITA.

Google has turned to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider to advise on its $700 million acquisition of ITA Software, one of the few companies specializing in software and information technology services that allow travelers to book flights online.

With the deal expected to draw the scrutiny of regulators, it won't be Cleary's well-regarded antitrust practice that might handle an antitrust fight for Google, but Axinn Veltrop and Wilson Sonsini, who are acting as lead antitrust counsel to the Mountain View, Calif.-based company on the deal.

As previously reported by The Am Law Daily, Google retained Cleary earlier this year to advise on its battle with the Federal Trade Commission over the Internet search giant's $750 million acquisition of mobile phone advertising firm AdMob in November 2009. (The FTC approved the AdMob deal in May.)

Cleary also advised Google two years ago on its proposed advertising agreement with Yahoo, which Google abandoned in November 2008 after the Justice Department indicated it wouldn't approve the deal.

Google has teamed Cleary with Wilson Sonsini before. The firm also advised Google on its ill-fated Yahoo accord, and both Cleary and Wilson Sonsini counseled Google on its $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick in April 2007, keeping the online advertising company out of the hands of its archrival, Microsoft. Wilson Sonsini and Cleary won FTC approval of the DoubleClick deal in December 2007, while Cleary took the lead in developing a strategy to win European Commission approval of the transaction the following March.

Now Cleary and Wilson Sonsini will be making room for Axinn Veltrop to represent Google on the proposed ITA acquisition, which will allow Google to better compete with rivals Bing.com and Kayak.com, Bloomberg reports.

Cleary M&A partner Ethan Klingsberg, employee benefits partner Michael Albano, IP partner Leonard Jacoby, tax partner Sheldon Alster, and associates Scott Larson, Nesli Gauchier, Leah LaPorte, Mario Mendolaro, Boris Gelfand, and Peter Psiachos advised Google on the ITA acquisition, according to sibling publication The Recorder. The team worked closely with Christine Flores, senior in-house counsel at Google for M&A.

Klingsberg did not respond to a request for comment, and Cleary antitrust partner David Gelfand, who advised Google in the AdMob and DoubleClick flaps, was out of the office on Tuesday and unavailable for immediate comment. A Google spokesman also did not respond to an interview request.

John Harkrider, cochair of Axinn Veltrop's antitrust practice, is heading up Google's antitrust team along with Wilson Sonsini antitrust partners Scott Sher and Susan Creighton.

Jay Hachigian, a founding partner of Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, advised Cambridge, Mass.-based ITA on the deal along with corporate partners Gregg Griner and Nicholas Guttilla, IP partner Timothy Ehrlich, employee benefits partner Elizabeth Webb, and associates Jeffrey Christoforetti, Michael Hacker, and Adriana Sherwood.

Hogan Lovells partners Michele Harrington and Lynda Marshall and associates Michaelynn Ware and Charlesa Ceres are acting as lead antitrust counsel to ITA.

ITA general counsel David Sandberg, who joined the company in 2000, previously worked at Cleary and Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge. Sandberg headed up in-house legal matters along with ITA associate general counsel Ron Scharf and counsel Craig Stelmach.

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