The New York lawyer who guided Germany's Daimler-Benz AG and later DaimlerChrysler AG through two decades of U.S. mergers and acquisitions has left the business.
Michael Schell, Daimler's lead outside counsel in the United States, has resigned from the New York law firm of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP to become vice chairman of Citigroup Inc. He will be in charge of international banking.
Although always behind the scenes, Schell, 58, was deeply involved in Daimler-Benz's North American expansion since he joined Skadden in 1980. He represented Daimler-Benz in its $36 billion acquisition of Chrysler Corp. in 1998.
Before that he paved the way for Daimler-Benz's acquisition of U.S. commercial truckmaker Freightliner, helped Daimler become the first German company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and guided the German conglomerate through other U.S. business linkups.
Schell also represented DaimlerChrysler in a lawsuit filed against the company and its German management by U.S. billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Chrysler's largest individual shareholder at the time of the Daimler deal, Kerkorian filed a lawsuit in 2000 alleging that he had been duped into approving the transaction.
Kerkorian contended in the lawsuit that, contrary to initial representations, Chrysler's U.S. management was pushed out and decision making was removed from the United States. Kerkorian sought $2 billion.
Schell and his team at Skadden won that lawsuit, although Kerkorian has vowed to appeal.
Although the Chrysler deal was the largest of all Daimler's U.S. acquisitions, other deals were more difficult, Schell says. The acquisition of Freightliner was complicated when U.S. banking regulators questioned the deal in its final hours.
According to Schell, regulators raised concerns over the potential conflict of uniting Daimler's part ownership by Germany's Deutsche Bank and Freightliner's own financial services arm. The regulatory issues were satisfied at the last moment.
"Daimler has undergone an enormous transformation since those early days in 1980 and 1981," Schell says. "It went from being a very German company to a very international company with some very large U.S. operations."
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