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September 27, 2010 6:01 PM

Four Firms Lead on Unilever's $3.7 Billion Hair Care Buy

Posted by Brian Baxter

Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Slaughter and May, and Arnold & Porter are advising consumer products giant Unilever on a $3.7 billion acquisition of leading U.S. hair products company Alberto Culver, Legal Week reports.

Announced on Monday, the all-cash deal saw Cravath international practice chair and corporate partner Mark Greene, tax partner Michael Schler, and executive compensation partner Jennifer Conway serve as lead M&A counsel to Unilever.

Legal Week reports that Slaughter competition partner Michael Rowe is representing Unilever on European antitrust issues, while A&P partner Deborah Feinstein has taken the lead advising the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate on U.S. antitrust matters. (Richard Goldstein, the former head of Unilever's North American operations, once practiced at A&P.)

Cravath and Slaughter have previously advised Unilever on high-profile M&A deals. According to Greene, who spoke with us when Unilever was divesting itself of its laundry brands business, Cravath has represented the company for at least 50 years. Greene also handled Unilever's $411.5 million acquisition of the TIGI global professional hair products business last year.

Slaughter represented Rotterdam-based Unilever earlier this year on the $1 billion sale of its Findus Italian frozen foods business. A year ago this month, the Magic Circle firm and Rowe also advised Unilever on its $1.9 billion acquisition of Sara Lee's global personal care and European detergent business.

Forbes reports that personal hair and skin care products are one of the fastest growing segments in the consumer products industry, which also is seeing a surge in demand from emerging markets like China and India. That's a major reason behind Unilever's push to purchase Alberto Culver, maker of brands like VO5, TRESemmé, St. Ives, and Nexxus.

Unilever associate general counsel David Schwartz handled matters in-house for the conglomerate. Unilever chief legal officer Tonia Lovell was promoted to the position in February. Legal Week reports she replaced long-standing legal chief Steve Williams, a Slaughter and May alum who was approaching retirement (he'd joined the company in 1986).

Melrose Park, Ill.-based Alberto Culver turned to longtime outside counsel Sidley Austin. Leading the team from the firm were corporate partners Thomas Cole, Mark Kaufmann, Robert Verigan, and Scott Williams, M&A cochair Frederick Lowinger, employee benefits partner Matthew Johnson, litigation partner David Giardina, E.U. antitrust and regulatory partner Stephen Kinsella and counsel David Went, tax partner Suresh Advani, environmental partner Laura Leonard, and real estate partner Lee Smolen. Alberto Culver's general counsel is Gary Schmidt.

Latham & Watkins corporate partner Christopher Leuking is representing Credit Suisse, financial adviser to Alberto Culver's board of directors on the Unilever acquisition, which will require the approval of U.S. and E.U. regulators.

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