The three tech deals announced at the end of July constituted a riot of activity in a sector in which until then only two deals worth more than $1 billion had been signed in 2009. In the largest of the three, electronic testing and measurement company Agilent Technologies Inc. agreed on July 27 to acquire Varian Inc. for $1.5 billion in cash.
The buyer is using a legal team led by Douglas Cogen of Fenwick & West LLP. He also represented Santa Clara, Calif.-based Agilent on its $246 million acquisition of Stratagene Corp. in 2007. Hewlett-Packard Co. spun out Agilent in 1999, and the company has used a variety of law firms since. In 2005, it tapped Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP on the $2.7 billion sale of its semiconductor products unit to a consortium led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Silver Lake Partners and used Baker & McKenzie LLP on the sale of its storage semiconductor unit to PMC-Sierra Inc.
Agilent also used Simpson Thacher in 2000 on the $1.7 billion sale of its healthcare solutions group to Royal Philips Electronics NV. And in 2000 Agilent reached out to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC, HP's law firm at the time, on its $733 million purchase of Objective Systems Integrators Inc. and its $120 million purchase of Salient 3 Communications Inc.'s wireless division.
On the Varian deal, Sam Britton at Goldman, Sachs & Co. is providing banking advice to Agilent, which also used Goldman on the sale of its semiconductor products business.
Varian is using Larry Sonsini and Rob Ishii at Wilson Sonsini for legal advice. The law firm advised Varian in 2005 when it sold its electronics manufacturing unit to Jabil Circuit Inc. for $195 million. Chris O'Connor and Jeff Stute from J.P. Morgan are providing banking advice on the Agilent deal.
On July 28, IBM Corp. agreed to pay $1.2 billion in cash for SPSS Inc. Big Blue used Scott Barshay of longtime counsel Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and as usual eschewed outside financial advice. Chicago-based SPSS tapped William Kucera and Frederick "Fritz" Thomas of hometown law firm Mayer Brown LLP and Chris Gaertner and Jack MacDonald of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for banking advice.
In the Internet sector, Amazon.com Inc. agreed to acquire online shoe retailer Zappos.com Inc. for $847 million on July 23. The buyer tapped Peter Heilmann of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in San Francisco for its largest-ever acquisition. The firm also advised Amazon on its purchase of AbeBooks Inc. and has worked on other matters for the online bookseller. Lazard's Jeffrey Sechrest gave banking advice; he played the same role when Amazon paid $300 million for Audible Inc., a public company deal on which Amazon used Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Zappos turned to a Fenwick & West team led by William Schreiber as well as Morgan Stanley's Michael Grimes, Nick Osborne and Cynthia Gaylor.