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M & A specialist firm gets upside down gig

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MS on Trial The Department of Justice has appointed Greenhill & Co, a New York firm specialising in mergers and acquisitions, to advise it on the Microsoft case. A DoJ spokeswoman blocked questions as to whether this reflected well or badly on the mediation effort, saying that "the firm's advice will be useful in ongoing processes". No information was forthcoming as to the length or cost of the consultancy. Jim Cullinan for Microsoft said "it's far too premature to discuss remedies in this process - there's a long way to go". Greenhill has been retained as "a financial advisor to assist in analysing financial aspects of the full range of potential remedies". The firm was established by Robert Greenhill, former president of Morgan Stanley, two years ago. The firm ranked 24th in the US merger and acquisition advisers during the first eight months of 1999, according to Thomson. Greenhill has good but limited experience in technology deals, and it would be wrong to characterise the firm as a high-tech specialist. Its main IT client has been Compaq, which it advised on the sale of the AltaVista stake, the offer for shopping.com, and the purchase of Digital and Tandem, plus some smaller deals. Its other experience consists of smaller deals with Misys, Wang (not the Getronics acquisition), and Warburg Pincus. On the telecoms front, it has advised Cable & Wireless and Hughes Electronics. One problem for the DoJ was of course to find a firm that had not worked with Microsoft in the past, although it does not escape our notice that Greenhill's web site displays an Internet Explorer download icon and no other. It'll be interesting to see if it stays there. The partner expected to be most involved is Jeff Williams, who was previously head of Morgan Stanley's telecoms & media group before moving to McGraw-Hill. He's an architect by training. We have no comment on Greenhill's appointment and the fact that its London office is just around the corner from The Register. In a sense, Greenhill's job is to advise how to do the very opposite of what it is normally called on to do: it is being asked to put a governor on illegal business practices and to restore competition to the industry, rather than to help Microsoft. It is good that the DoJ is seeking advice, but it has made it clear that it will not be bound by any suggestions. It is not clear whether the appointment was made to help with the mediation talks, or in preparation for the next rounds in Judge Jackson's court. Of course, it is just possible that the suggestion came from the mediator, Judge Posner. We suspect however that the appointment is being used by the DoJ as a lever so far as the mediation talks go, and that the major purpose is preparation for the next round when remedies will be discussed, after the findings of law. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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