Top US firms score lead roles on AXA's $15bn acquisition of insurance rival

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Cravath Swaine & Moore and Debevoise & Plimpton have taken the lead roles on AXA’s $15.3bn (£11.1bn) acquisition of insurance rival XL Group.

XL, which is headquartered in Bermuda has about 7,400 employees, specialises in property and casualty insurance.

Paris-based insurance giant AXA has turned to Cravath and Debevoise on the deal, with Cravath’s team including corporate partners Richard Hall, George Stephanakis and Erik Tavzel.

Debevoise is fielding a team led by New York financial institution partners David Grosgold and John Vasily, alongside Hong Kong partner Edwin Northover and a number of London lawyers, including partner James Scoville, international counsel Benjamin Lyon and consultant Clare Swirski, who joined from Clifford Chance last September.

Meanwhile, XL is being advised by Skadden, which is fielding a New York-based team led by financial institutions M&A partners Todd Freed and Jon Hlafter, alongside tax partner Sally Thurston, executive compensation and benefits partner Neil Leff and antitrust and competition partner Kenneth Schwartz.

The deal uses proceeds from AXA’s planned US initial public offering and, according to the company’s press release, reduces its sensitivities to the financial markets.

AXA’s group general counsel is Helen Browne, who took over in September 2016. Prior to taking the top legal role, she was head of corporate finance for the AXA Group from 2001 to 2010, when she took on the additional responsibility for M&A. She became deputy GC in 2014 and was promoted to group GC two years later.

Last year, she was named as one of Corporate Counsel and Inside Counsel‘s Transformative Leadership honorees at the Women, Influence & Power Conference in Washington DC.

AXA chief executive officer Thomas Buberl said: “This transaction is a unique strategic opportunity for AXA to shift its business profile from predominantly life and savings business to predominantly property and casualty business, and will enable the group to become the number one global property and casualty commercial lines insurer based on gross written premiums.”