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Francis J. Aquila


Francis J. Aquila

New York +1-212-558-4048+1-212-558-4048 +1-212-558-3588+1-212-558-3588
[email protected]

Frank Aquila has a broad multidisciplinary practice that includes extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance. He has been engaged in many high profile matters that include activism, cross-border transactions, leveraged buyouts, proxy contests and unsolicited bids as an adviser to global leaders such as Amgen, AndeavorAnheuser-Busch InBev, Avon, Cheniere Energy, Diageo, Diebold Nixdorf, International Airline Group, Kraft, Navistar International and United Rentals. Mr. Aquila also regularly counsels boards of directors and board committees on corporate governance, crisis management and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy.

Mr. Aquila has been consistently recognized as one of the world’s leading mergers and acquisitions lawyers. The breadth of his practice has resulted in his being recognized as one of a handful of lawyers ranked by Chambers Global in Band 1 (their top tier), as an American Lawyer “Dealmaker of the Year,” as a recipient of the Atlas Award as “Global M&A Lawyer of the Year” and as a three-time Law360 MVP. For his work in corporate governance, Mr. Aquila has been regularly named by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) to their “Directorship 100” – one of the 100 most influential people in corporate governance and inside the boardroom. Best Lawyers in America has named Mr. Aquila as its 2017 Corporate Governance Law “Lawyer of the Year.” In 2014, Global M&A Network recognized him as one of the top 50 lawyers in the world.

Mr. Aquila is widely acknowledged as an innovator and thought leader in the profession. In 2015, The Financial Times recognized his representation of Kraft in its merger with Heinz to form The Kraft Heinz Company as one of the most innovative in North America. In 2009, Mr. Aquila was selected by the American Bar Association as a “Legal Rebel” – one of the profession’s 50 leading innovators. In 2015, The National Law Journal named him as one of M&A’s “Trailblazers” for “excellence in dealmaking.” He is also a two-time winner of the Burton Award for Legal Achievement (2005, 2010) and led the Sullivan & Cromwell team advising on The American Lawyer’s 2016 “Deal of the Year” Kraft merger with Heinz.

During the course of his career, Mr. Aquila has advised numerous clients in many of the largest and most important global transactions that have been transformational across a range of business sectors‎. In pharmaceuticals he represented The Upjohn Company in its merger with Pharmacia to create Pharmacia & Upjohn and its subsequent acquisition of Monsanto to form Pharmacia. In beverage alcohol Mr. Aquila represented Grand Metropolitan in its combination with Guinness to form Diageo and Diageo in its acquisition of Seagram Wine & Spirits. In brewing he represented InBev in its successful bid for Anheuser-Busch and Anheuser-Busch InBev in its follow-on deals to acquire SABMiller, Grupo Modelo and Oriental Brewery. In biotech he represented Amgen in its acquisitions of Abgenix and Onyx. In aviation he represented British Airways in its combination with Iberia to form IAG International Airlines Group. In consumer packaged goods Mr. Aquila represented Pillsbury in its combination with General Mills and Kraft in its merger with H.J. Heinz to form The Kraft Heinz Company. In equipment rental he represented United Rentals in its acquisition of RSC to form the world’s largest equipment rental company. In automated payment systems and ATMs Mr. Aquila represented Diebold in its combination with Wincor Nixdorf to form Diebold Nixdorf. In food and beverage retailing Mr. Aquila advised Panera in its acquisition by JAB. In oil and gas Mr. Aquila represented Andeavor in its acquisition by Marathon Petroleum.

Mr. Aquila is a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Previously, Mr. Aquila was the co-managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s General Practice Group and in that role he was responsible for almost 500 lawyers in 12 offices around the world. This group includes the Firm’s corporate, financial institutions, securities, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, real estate, leveraged finance, private equity, project finance, restructuring and intellectual property transactional practices.

Professional Activities and Community Involvement

  • Chaired Practising Law Institute’s 2015 program on shareholder activism and regularly chairs PLI’s “Hot Topic” Briefings
  • Frequent author and commentator on M&A, corporate governance and related trends on Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg TV, CNBC and Fox Business and former columnist for Business Week
  • Board of Trustees (former Chair) of The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education
  • Board of Directors of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR)
  • Board of Directors of Dress for Success Worldwide
  • Board of Trustees (Vice Chair) of Brooklyn Law School
  • Board of Directors (Secretary) of the American Associates of the National Theatre
  • Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New York and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity
  • Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
  • Practical Law The Journal, “In the Boardroom” columnist

Rankings and Recognitions

  • Law360 MVP in M&A (2015, 2016) and Life Sciences (2013)
  • Recognized in The Legal 500 United States
  • Listed in the IFLR1000 as a “Market Leader”
  • The Best of the Best USA, Euromoney Legal Media Group
  • Lawdragon 500: Leading Lawyers in America
  • The American Lawyer, “Dealmaker of the Year” (April 2009)
  • The American Lawyer, “Dealmaker of the Week” (November 21, 2008 and September 3, 2013)
  • Recipient of the Atlas Award as the “Global M&A Lawyer of the Year” in 2010
  • Selected by the American Bar Association in 2009 as a “Legal Rebel” – one of the profession’s 50 leading innovators
  • Recognized as a leading M&A lawyer in The Lawyer, “Transatlantic Elite”
  • Recipient of the Burton Award for Legal Achievement (2005, 2010)
  • Featured twice in The American Lawyer, “Daddy’s Weekend on the Phone” (January 2002) and “Supersonic Lawyers” (May 2004)
  • Featured in The Wall Street Journal, “Business Trips Leave Little Time for Luxuries” (May 31, 1996)
  • Cited in Seeing the World Through Clients’ Eyes (Nisus Consulting) as an adviser who had “really gone the extra mile and surpassed your expectations” (2004)

Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business
  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business
  • Guide to the World’s Leading Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyers, Euromoney Legal Media Group/International Financial Law Review
  • The Definitive Guide to Europe’s Leading Advisers: Are Your Advisers Giving You the Edge? (mergermarket)
  • PLC Cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions Handbook
  • PLC Global Counsel Mergers and Acquisitions Handbook, Practical Law Company
  • PLC Which Lawyer? Yearbook, Practical Law Company
  • New York Super Lawyers
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • The International Who’s Who of Merger & Acquisition Lawyers

Corporate Governance

  • Directorship 100 The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD)
  • PLC Cross-border Directors’ Duties and Liabilities Handbook
  • PLC Cross-border Corporate Governance Handbook
  • New York Super Lawyers
  • Best Lawyers in America Corporate Governance Law Lawyer of the Year (2017)
  • The International Who’s Who of Corporate Governance Lawyers

Leveraged Buyouts and Private Equity

  • The Best Lawyers in America


  • Kraft in its merger with Heinz to form The Kraft Heinz Company
  • InBev in its unsolicited acquisition of Anheuser-Busch
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev in its re-acquisition of Oriental Brewery Co. from KKR & Co. and Affinity Equity Partners, its acquisition of Grupo Modelo, its sale of Compañía Cervecera de Coahuila and a 50 percent interest in Crown to Constellation Brands, and the sale of Busch Entertainment
  • Amgen in acquisitions of Abgenix, BioVex, deCODE Genetics, Onyx and Micromet, and their collaborations with Kirin, Takeda and Watson Pharmaceuticals
  • International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) in its acquisition of Vueling, and British Airways in its combination with Iberia to form IAG and in its joint venture with American Airlines
  • Diageo in its acquisition of Seagram Wines and Spirits and its divestiture of Burger King
  • Avon Products in its acquisition of Silpada Designs and its divestiture of Avon Japan
  • United Rentals in its acquisitions of RSC Holdings and National Pump and its joint venture with Fluor
  • Pharmacia & Upjohn in its merger with Monsanto, and Upjohn in its earlier merger with Pharmacia
  • Collective Brands in its sale to a consortium including Wolverine Worldwide and in its acquisition of Stride Rite
  • EchoStar in its attempted acquisition of Hughes Electronics from General Motors
  • Western Resources in its hostile bids for ADT and KCP&L
  • Pillsbury in its merger with General Mills
  • Optimer Pharmaceuticals in its acquisition by Cubist Pharmaceuticals
  • Navistar International with respect to its agreements with Icahn Partners and MHR Fund Management