Hot List Lawyer did 108-hour working weeks during a £26 billion hostile takeover

by Sophie Schroder13 Aug 2014
Simpson Grierson’s head of corporate and commercial Michael Pollard made our Hot List after a stellar performance this year, capped by a role advising China’s Bright Dairy & Food Company on the $120 million IPO of Synlait Milk.

The lawyer is certainly no stranger to big deals, and has been called a “very dynamic dealmaker – hungry and really solution-focused” by one source.

He told NZ Lawyer about one of the most challenging jobs of his life, which came during a six year stint working for Freshfields in London.

Pollard was acting for The Royal Bank of Scotland on the £26 billion hostile takeover of National Westminster Bank, competing against the Bank of Scotland and the NatWest defence.

“I managed to rack up a number of 47 hour stretches, a 108 hour week and a 370 hour month. We followed this up with one of the largest ever preference share issues and subsequently largest bookbuilt equity placements,” he says. “I lost about six months of my ‘thirties’ stuck in the office but I really enjoyed the experience.  Importantly, I don't see the work in New Zealand as any less challenging or interesting and I am on my toes nearly every day. There are just less zeros on the deal values.”

Here in New Zealand, the lawyer’s most recent significant deals include advising Craigs Investment Partners, First NZ Capital, Forsyth Barr and Macquarie Capital on the $155 million block trade of Quadrant Private.

He says a strong sense of commitment to the clients’ objectives and a “very commercial approach” have been two of his keys to success, alongside his energy, enthusiasm and sense of fun on the job.

In terms of looming potential challenges in the corporate and commercial space, Pollard says it’s always dangerous that the world’s economy is almost entirely sentiment based.

“Australasia seems to be in an optimistic frame of mind resulting in strong enthusiasm around M&A and buoyant capital markets. I really hope this can be maintained,” he says. “However, there is some nervousness around financial markets, diary prices, international trade, political stability and interest rates.  Some bad news might slow things down or result in a step backwards.”

More widely, he thinks the greatest pressure on firms in recent years has been reduced commercial deal flow and resulting competition. 

While the pressure appears to be reducing as the economy rebounds, if the market does not continue to grow, market share necessarily becomes the focus and firms will need to better differentiate to stay on top, he says.

“The market is also experiencing the growth of in-house teams which reduces some of our typical day-to-day deal flow available to external counsel.  Commoditisation will remain a risk across the industry. These risks are not going to go away.”

And when he’s not working impressive hours on significant new deals, Pollard and his wife run a busy family life with three young kids.

When he gets a moment, he’s also a passionate skier, mountain biker and surfer.

“If I don't get my adrenalin fix on the weekend, I struggle to get through the week.”
 

COMMENTS

  • by Don 13/08/2014 2:45:11 p.m.

    Is it possible for projects like that to be structured so as to meet clients' legitimate expectations while avoiding those excessive hours?