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William A. Plapinger

Senior Counsel

William A. Plapinger

Senior Counsel
New York +1-212-558-3550+1-212-558-3550 +1-212-558-3588+1-212-558-3588
[email protected]

Bill Plapinger is Senior Counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell and previously was Of Counsel for five years and a partner for almost three decades at the Firm. His practice focuses on debt and equity capital markets (including privatizations and sovereign and multilateral financings), mergers and acquisitions (including private equity) and general corporate (including governance) matters in a wide variety of industries, with particular emphasis on large, complex, international and U.S. financial transactions, many of which have been the first, largest or most significant of their kind.  His clients have included a diverse group of non-U.S. and U.S. corporations, financial institutions, governments and governmental entities, and investment banks on transactions in almost 30 different countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, as well as the United States. 

Mr. Plapinger has had both Firm-wide and regional management responsibilities, including as a managing partner of the Sullivan & Cromwell’s London office, its largest branch office, from 1995 to 2008, and coordinator of the Firm’s European offices in London, Paris and Frankfurt from 2000 through 2011. He was resident in the Firm's London office for more than 25 years, before and after which he has been resident in the New York office.

He has published in a number of legal publications and participated in public and private panels on a variety of legal topics.


Mr. Plapinger has been recognized as an American Lawyer “Dealmaker of the Year” and for many years in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World, and has been named repeatedly by numerous publications, including Best Lawyers in the United Kingdom, Chambers Guides to the Leading Lawyers for Business (Global, Europe and U.K. editions), Global Counsel, International Financial Law Review, Legal Business, Legal Experts, Legal 500 (European and U.K. editions), PLC Cross-border Capital Markets Handbook, PLC Which Lawyer? and Super Lawyers (New York Metro) as, variously, one of the world’s leading IPO, equity and debt capital markets, privatization and M&A lawyers.

Professional and Community Activities

Since 2012, Mr. Plapinger has devoted most of his time outside Sullivan & Cromwell to the not-for-profit sector in education, conservation and the arts and frequently advises on not-for-profit governance and finance matters.  He is currently a member of the governing boards of The Posse Foundation (where he is Chair of the Governance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee), Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, the largest private land trust on Martha's Vineyard, MA, and the Sundance Institute (where he is the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee). Previously, he was the chair of the board of trustees of Vassar College for 12 years, a Commissioner on the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission (having been appointed by the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) for two three-year terms, and a member of the governing boards of the American Friends of the British Museum, the American School in London, the American School in London Foundation, Black Point Beach Association (Martha's Vineyard, MA), the Conference of Board Chairs of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges, The Fulbright U.S.-U.K. Foundation, Global Citizen Year, and the President's Commission of Wheaton College (Norton, MA).  Over the past several years, he has worked with partners on an innovative venture to provide affordable financing to African students at the world's leading universities.

Mr. Plapinger was a Fellow in 2013, and a Senior Fellow in 2014, in the Advanced Leadership Initiative  at Harvard University, a year-long joint program of the graduate schools of business, education, government, law and public health, dedicated to preparing a select group of accomplished leaders from a wide range of backgrounds to address significant national and global social problems.


In the course of his practice, Mr. Plapinger has worked on:
  • Transactions involving companies in a wide variety of industries, including banking and financial services, chemicals and petrochemicals, communications, consumer goods, credit, electricity, infrastructure, insurance and reinsurance, internet, investment banking, investment funds, manufacturing, media and entertainment, mining and metals, news and information services, oil & gas and pipelines, pharmaceuticals and health care, real estate, retail, technology, telecommunications and transportation (including aerospace, airlines, automobiles and trucks, railroads and shipping).
  • Transactions involving companies in almost 30 different countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, as well as the United States, including in Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, China (Hong Kong), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and Vietnam.
  • Numerous IPOs, including Enagas (Spain), GlobeOp (Luxembourg), H. Lundbeck (Denmark), Nera (Norway), New Holland (Netherlands), Orange (U.K.), Polygram (Netherlands), Rusal (Jersey), Tele Atlas (Netherlands), Terra Networks (Spain), TomTom (Netherlands) and Zeneca (U.K.), as well as more than a dozen of the world’s most significant privatizations in countries as diverse as Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.
  • More than a dozen international equity offerings of over $1 billion by non-U.S. issuers, including representing Enel in the largest European IPO ever ($18.7 billion).
  • A significant number of M&A (including private equity) transactions, including acting in connection with acquisitions and dispositions, as well as bid defenses, for, among others, BHP, Boots, BP, Carlton, INA, Norilsk Nickel, Pilkington, Powergen, Rentokil Initial, SBS Broadcasting, Tele Danmark (now TDC) and Wellcome, as well as for a number of leading investment banks. He has also worked on the organization of a number of private equity and other investment funds.