Bruce Wasserstein

by Martin Lipton, for The Harvard Law School Forum at Harvard Law School, December 9, 2009.

Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisition and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on remarks delivered by Mr. Lipton at the memorial service for Bruce Wasserstein earlier this week.

Sometime after leaving the Cravath law firm to join First Boston in 1977 and before co-founding Wasserstein Perella in 1988, Bruce Wasserstein moved from being a phenomenal investment banker to an investment banking legend. If I had to place the time of the transformation, I would choose 1981. It was when Bruce advised DuPont on the takeover of Conoco, which at that time was the largest takeover in corporate history. Conoco was a classic case of the complexity and tactical maneuvering that were features of the takeover battles that caught the attention of the Nation for most of the decade of the 80’s. First having been attacked by Dome Petroleum, then having negotiated a merger with Cities Service, Conoco was again attacked, this time by Seagrams, just as it was about to sign a merger agreement with Cities Service. In desperation, Conoco turned to DuPont to rescue it. Bruce structured a deal that outmaneuvered Seagrams, was successful despite a higher offer from Mobil, and resulted in DuPont acquiring all of Conoco. The investment banking world recognized that DuPont’s success was the result of the brilliant strategy and tactics of Bruce Wasserstein. The legend was born…(continue reading)

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