April 9, 2012 4:28 PM
Four Firms Take Lead on AOL’s $1 Billion Patent Sale to Microsoft
Posted by Brian Baxter
Four Am Law 200 firms are working on a deal announced Monday that will see AOL selling a portfolio of more than 800 patents to Microsoft for nearly $1.1 billion in cash.
The proposed transaction was a boon to AOLâ€™s sagging share price, which soared more than 45 percent in trading on Monday, as the New York-based company became the latest to cash in on its intellectual property assets, perhaps signaling that a potential bubble on patents hadnâ€™t burst with Eastman Kodakâ€™s bankruptcy filing earlier this year.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen Katz and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett Dunner are advising AOL on the transaction, which also calls for the seller to grant a non-exclusive license on another 300 patents to Microsoft.
The Am Law Daily reported last summer on AOLâ€™s retention of Wachtell. AOL declined to say why it had retained the firm instead of its longtime outside counsel at Simpson Thacher Bartlett, which handled the Internet services and media company’s $315 million of The Huffington Post early last year. At the time, Wachtell’s hire led to speculation that AOL could be sold a private equity buyer.
Wachtell founding partner Martin Lipton and corporate partners David Karp and David Shapiro are leading the firm’s AOL team which includes antitrust partner Damian Didden and tax partner T. Eiko Stange. (Kodak also retained Wachtell last year to protect $2.9 billion in tax credits the company would need to offset income it could earn if it chose to sell some or all of its digital patent portfolio.)
Finnegan Henderson, a firm renowned for its IP expertise, did not immediately provide a list of lawyers advising AOL on the proposed patent sale. AOLâ€™s general counsel is Julie Jacobs.
Covington corporate partner Bruce Deming in San Francisco is leading a team from the firm that includes IP and antitrust partner Evan Cox, EU competition partner Miranda Cole, and tax partners Robert Heller.
Charles â€œRickâ€� Rule, the head of the antitrust group and managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office at Cadwalader, is serving as U.S. antitrust counsel to Microsoft.
Cadwalader and Covington both advised Microsoft last year on the Redmond, Washington-based software giantâ€™s $8.5 billion acquisition of Internet voice and video chat service Skype Global. Cadwaladerâ€™s Rule has long guided Microsoft through delicate regulatory waters, including the companyâ€™s increasingly frequent antitrust spats with technology rival Google.
Bradford Smith serves as general counsel and chief compliance officer for Microsoft, which shook up its outside legal roster three years ago. In 2010, Microsoft hired the former cochair of Dechertâ€™s white-collar and securities litigation group, David Howard, as its new deputy general counsel in charge of litigation.
The companyâ€™s patent portfolio transaction with AOL is expected to close by the end of 2012, according to a statement announcing the proposed deal.
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