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June 23, 2011 7:06 PM

Cravath, Gibson Dunn Advising Williams on Rival Southern Union Bid

Posted by Brian Baxter

The Williams Companies launched a rival $4.9 billion unsolicited bid to acquire Southern Union on Thursday, seeking to push aside a $4.2 billion offer for the natural gas pipeline company put forth last week by Energy Transfer Equity (ETE).

Tulsa-based Williams, which focuses its operations on natural gas, said in a statement that its bid represented an 18 percent premium for Southern Union over the previous offer by ETE, a Dallas-based publicly traded energy partnership.

Representing Williams on the offer for Southern Union are Cravath, Swaine & Moore M&A practice leader Richard Hall, corporate partners Faiza Saeed and Minh Van Ngo, and tax partner Michael Schler. All are in New York.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is serving as cocounsel to the company. M&A partners Richard Russo and Eduardo Gallardo and antitrust cochair M. Sean Royall are leading the firm's work on the deal. Russo, the cochair of the firm's corporate transactions practice, also serves as managing partner of Gibson Dunn's Denver office. The firm has previously handled litigation and corporate work for Williams.

As previously reported by Corporate Counsel, a sibling publication, Williams's in-house legal department has trimmed its outside counsel roster in recent years. James Bender, a former associate at Gibson Dunn, serves as Williams's general counsel. (Holland & Hart advised Williams on its $925 million acquisition of shale assets in North Dakota late last year.)

As we reported last week, Southern Union has turned to Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell and Roberts & Holland for outside counsel on the offer for the company by ETE. Monica Gaudiosi serves as general counsel for Houston-based Southern Union, which had accepted the terms of ETE's offer.

Teams of lawyers from Latham & Watkins and Bingham McCutchen are advising ETE on its bid for Southern Union. ETE's general counsel is Thomas Mason, a former Vinson & Elkins partner who joined ETE in 2007 after serving as its outside counsel. The lead Latham partner now advising ETE, William Finnegan IV, joined the firm last year from Vinson.

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