By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hired a veteran attorney to help lead its shareholder activism practice at a time corporate agitators are flexing their muscle and battling with ever larger companies around the world.
Sebastian Alsheimer, a partner at law firm Olshan who has worked for activists including Elliott Management and Starboard Value, will join Wilson Sonsini as a partner and the firm’s co-leader of shareholder activism, according to a memo seen by Reuters.
The firm works mainly with public companies, including Box Inc, as corporations face pressure from activist investors to improve performance by proposing everything from cost cuts to new names in the executive suite.
By picking Alsheimer, Wilson Sonsini is bringing in a lawyer who has deep experience both with blue-chip activists and the next generation of agitators and has worked on some of the biggest boardroom challenges in the last years.
Most recently he represented Elliott Management when it settled for a board seat at Pinterest Inc and in connection with its investment at PayPal Holdings Inc. He also represented newcomer Alta Fox in its fight at toymaker Hasbro Inc.
“With increasing levels of shareholder activism and contests for corporate control, Wilson Sonsini’s shareholder engagement and activism practice is growing,” said Doug Clark, managing partner at the firm. He called Alsheimer “an exceptional lawyer who is widely liked and respected both by investors and issuers.”
Alsheimer will work closely with Doug Schnell, a partner and leader of the engagement and activism practice, and be based in New York. He earned degrees from Harvard, Oxford, Columbia and Yale and starts on Monday.
Shareholder activism is becoming increasingly big business for law firms and banks. Last year 235 campaigns were launched around the world, marking an increase of 36% from the previous year and making 2022 the busiest year in the last four, according to data from Lazard.
This year Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management is pressing for a board seat at Walt Disney Co, which is valued at $206 billion. Also four activist investors – Starboard Value, ValueAct Capital Management, Inclusive Capital Partners and Elliott Management – are pushing for changes at cloud-based software company Salesforce Inc, valued at $175 billion.
Wilson Sonsini ranked seventh on Refinitiv’s Shareholder Activism Scorecard for the number of campaigns advised in the 12 months to June 30, 2022.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis)