The Work

September 1, 2009 3:46 PM

New Hires Help Dewey Nab eBay Work in Skype Deal

Posted by Zach Lowe

Dewey & LeBoeuf has landed a new role as eBay's go-to M&A counsel after luring the online auction site's longtime lawyers from Cooley Godward Kronish last month

Three M&A lawyers Dewey hired from Cooley last month led the firm's team representing eBay on its $1.9 billion deal to unload a controlling interest in Skype to a consortium of investors. 

The deal ends a failed marriage between eBay and Skype--one that started in 2005, when Cooley advised eBay on acquiring the Internet phone service for $3 billion. EBay had hoped to integrate Skype's peer-to-peer voice technology with its auction Web site, but that never materialized, according to The New York Times.

Silver Lake Partners, a private equity firm, leads a consortium of buyers who will own 65 percent of Skype under the terms of the deal announced Tuesday. Sullivan & Cromwell advised Silver Lake, led by partners Richard Morrissey and Richard Pollack, who did not return calls seeking comment. 

S&C partners Brian Hamilton and Benjamin Perry also helped represent the consortium, which includes Index Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm, and Marc Andreessen, the cofounder of Netscape, the NYT reports.

Dewey lead partners Richard Climan and Keith Flaum led the firm's team on the matter. Both are recent Cooley refugees, and Climan was most recently the M&A chair at Cooley. The team also included M&A partners David Smith, Jane Ross (also a recent hire from Cooley) and Ivan Presant and finance partner Gregory Owens. (Presant also played a key role on the Dewey team that advised Walt Disney Company in its $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment announced Monday.)

Flaum declined to comment on the specific timing of the deal, but says it bridged his time between the two firms. He recalls one conference call that ran past 5 p.m. on his final day at Cooley during which he joked that once the clock hit 5 p.m., eBay lawyers asking for him on the phone would have to request "Keith Flaum at Dewey" instead of "Keith Flaum at Cooley." Ross was also on the call but told the eBay group she hadn't yet made the final decision to jump to Dewey.

Joe Conroy, Cooley's chief executive officer, did not immediately respond to inquires about whether Cooley expects to retain eBay as a client. 

Flaum and Climan would not comment on how billing was split between Cooley and Dewey. 

Sidley Austin also advised eBay on the deal, and Flaum says the two firms acted as cocounsel. Sidley, though, came to the eBay matter more recently; the company turned to Sidley for advice on a possible Skype IPO earlier this year. Since Sidley developed a familiarity with Skype, eBay decided to keep the firm on the matter even though it opted to sell Skype instead of going through with the IPO, Flaum says.

Sidley M&A partners Gary Gerstman and Paul Choi did not return messages. The Sidley team also included partners Thomas Thesing, Sharon Flanagan and Sharp Sorensen.

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