Ethan A. Klingsberg’s practice comprises corporate, public company board of directors, M&A and SEC matters.

He has been repeatedly named a “BTI Client Service All-Star” based on the survey of general counsels of the Fortune 1000, and “Most Valuable Practitioner” in M&A, as well as having been selected, for a number of different assignments, as Dealmaker of the Year, Dealmaker of the Week and Dealmaker in the Spotlight by The American Lawyer and The Deal, and as a recipient of the Burton Award for Legal Achievement for writing on fiduciary duties. He is recognized as one of the country’s leading corporate lawyers in every major guide.

Ethan has helped a number of companies prevail against, manage and work constructively with “activist stockholders,” including in scenarios where these stockholders have board seats, are seeking board seats and do not have board seats. Experience includes responding to Brave Warrior, Corvex, Duquesne, Elliott, Franklin Mutual, Harbinger, Icahn, JANA, Paulson, Pershing Square, Relational, Starboard and Trian. For this and other work on behalf of clients, the firm is ranked in Tier 1 for Shareholder Activism: Advice to Boards by The Legal 500 U.S.

Ethan joined the firm in 1994 and became a partner in 2001.

Previously, he clerked for the Honorable Robert P. Patterson, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, served as Counselor to Chief Justice László Sólyom of the Hungarian Constitutional Court, and developed and participated in law reform projects in Eastern Europe under the auspices of the Soros Foundation and, later, Central European University.

Notable Experience

  • Recent Clients: Alphabet/Google, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Lowe’s, Pinterest, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Square, Stanley Black & Decker, Tiffany & Co., American Express, Synchrony Financial, Applied Materials, Dun & Bradstreet, Bemis, Akamai Technologies, Hyundai, Western Digital, Ciena Corp., Agilent Technologies, Keysight Technologies, Timken Co., Kindred Healthcare, Samsonite, and Family Dollar Stores, as well as numerous independent director committees.

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  • Selected Conflict M&A Transactions/Affiliate Buyouts: Cox Communications, ResCare, Fox Entertainment, CNA Surety, Alfa Corporation, Kinder Morgan, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Aramark, PepsiAmericas

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Recent Transactions

  • Agilent in its pending $1.17 billion acquisition of BioTek Instruments.

  • Google in its pending $2.6 billion acquisition of Looker Data Sciences.

  • Lowe’s Companies in its acquisition of Boomerang Commerce’s retail analytics platform.

  • Alphabet in the strategic relationship and equity investment arrangements between SoftBank and the Alphabet company, Loon.

  • Pinterest in its IPO and dual-class recapitalization.

  • Shareholders of Levi Strauss & Co., consisting primarily of the descendants of the family of Levi Strauss and their relatives, in connection with the company’s IPO, including the adoption of a dual-class capital structure and new governance structures.

  • Dun & Bradstreet in its $6.9 billion all-cash sale of the company.

  • Bemis in its pending $6.8 billion all-stock merger with Amcor.

  • Stanley Black & Decker in its acquisition of IES.

  • Akamai Technologies in its cooperation agreement with Elliott Management and other governance and shareholder value initiatives.

  • Google in its $1.1 billion agreement with HTC relating to the smartphone design business.

  • Tiffany & Co. in its settlement agreements with JANA Partners and Francesco Trapani, as well as other governance matters.

  • Keysight Technologies in its $1.6 billion acquisition of Ixia.

  • Stanley Black & Decker in the divestiture of its global mechanical security business to the dormakalba group.

  • Verizon in its takeover of Fleetmatics.

  • Higher One in the break-up and negotiated tender offer for the company.

  • Samsonite in its acquisition of Tumi.

  • Family Dollar in its cash/stock acquisition by Dollar Tree and rejection of the hostile tender offer by Dollar General.

  • Google in its acquisitions of Motorola Mobility, Waze, AdMob, Admeld, Wildfire, ITA Software, Skybox, bebop, Orbitera, and numerous other M&A and governance matters, including the restructuring of Google into Alphabet and Other Bets; numerous matters involving Other Bets, including investments by Temasek and Silver Lake in Verily and investment by a subsidiary of Softbank in Loon; investments by Google in SpaceX; wearables transaction with Fossil; merger of the Terra Bella satellite business with Planet Labs; and divestitures of Motorola’s mobile devices business to Lenovo and Motorola’s “Home” business to Arris.

  • Kindred Healthcare in its hostile tender offer (and threatened proxy contest) to acquire Gentiva Health Services and in the subsequent friendly, negotiated agreement to acquire Gentiva, the spin-off and merger of Kindred’s pharma business, and numerous other M&A and governance matters.

  • Stanley Black & Decker in its unsolicited tender offer to acquire Niscayah (successfully topping an existing agreement to sell the company), sale of the global Hardware & Home Improvement business, sale of the global Mechanical Security business, and numerous other M&A matters.

  • The Special Committee of Interactive Data Corp in the company’s LBO by a private equity consortium (the largest LBO of that year).

  • The Home Depot in its acquisitions of Interline Brands, Red Beacon, BlackLocus, Hughes Supply and all of the company’s other major acquisitions.

  • Keysight Technologies in its acquisition of Anite.

  • Agilent Technologies in its acquisitions of Dako and ACEA Biosciences.

  • Alpha Natural Resources in a number of transformative stock mergers with other public companies.

  • Acquiror consortia in LBOs of Ness Technologies, Burger King, Keane and others.

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Ethan has had essays and articles published in The Deal, Corporate Board Member, Directors Monthly, ABA Business Law, M&A Lawyer, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, Deal Lawyers, The M&A Journal, and Insights, and was interviewed in a video on the role of insider stockholders in M&A transactions for The New York Times – Deal Book and in a video by the Conference Board about M&A risks for boards and management teams arising in connection with internal forecasts, the roles of insiders, and fundless, LP, and lesser-known sponsors.

Cleary Gottlieb Discusses the Virtues of Standardization in M&A,” Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog (September 23, 2019)

“How to Avoid Bungling Off-Cycle Engagements With Stockholders,” (June 27, 2018), Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (June 3, 2018) and Law360 (May 21, 2018) 

Activism in 2018,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (January 29, 2018)

The Significance for Boards and Managements of the JANA/CalSTRs Letter to Apple,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (January 19, 2018), cited by Forbes as a “must-read” for executives and directors

Setting the Record Straight: Regulation G Doesn’t Apply to M&A Forecasts,” Deal Lawyers, Volume 11, No. 6 (November 2017)

PRC Acquirors: How M&A Agreements Handle Risks & Challenges,” Deal Lawyers, Volume 11, No. 6 (November 2017)

Index Eligibility as Governance Battlefield: Why the System is Not Broken and We Can Live With Dual Class Issuers,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (July 5, 2017)

Trian and the Bank of New York Mellon,” The M&A Journal, Volume 17, No. 8 (July 2017)

Changes in Asset Management,” The M&A Journal, Volume 17, No. 8 (July 2017)

Impediments to Stealth Acquisitions by Activists,” The M&A Journal, Volume 17, No. 7 (June 2017)

Balancing Concessions to Activists Against Responsiveness to the Broader Shareholder Base,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (April 4, 2017)

Prevent Merger Benefits From Becoming Disabling Conflicts," Law360 (September 22, 2016)

New Guidance on the Impact of SEC Beneficial Ownership Reporting and HSR Notification Regimes on Shareholder Activism and Engagement," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (August 3, 2016)

What the ValueAct Complaint Means for Activism Tactics and the SEC’s Beneficial Ownership Reporting Regime," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (May 18, 2016)

Defenses Available to Directors and Financial Advisors," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (May 11, 2016)

M&A Agreements and the Challenges of PRC Acquirors," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (April 18, 2016)

What the 2016 BlackRock Letter Means for Shareholder Engagement and Disclosure Practices," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (February 24, 2016)

Calm, Down, Stay Prepared – A Non-Alarmist Guide to Stockholder Activism," The Deal (February 8, 2016)

Boards & Their Financial Advisors: What Do Recent Delaware Opinions Mean for Processes & Relationships?" Deal Lawyers (January-February 2016)

Roundtable Discussion on Resolving Boardroom Disputes, Corporate Disputes" (October-December 2015)

Pendulum Swings the Other Way in New Conflicts Committee Decision, But Scrutiny and Criticism of Independent Directors Continues," Law360 (August 28, 2015)

Liability of Independent Directors and Insiders in Conflict Transactions: A Practical Perspective on Recent Delaware Case Law," Law360 (June 1, 2015)

Risks and Opportunities of Hedge Fund Activism," The Corporate Board (May 2015)

Forum: Preparing for and tackling shareholder activism," Financier Worldwide (May 2015)

Wake-up Call for Private M&A Deal Structuring," Deal Lawyers (March-April 2015)

Be Wary of the Path to the Business Judgment Rule," Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance (July 11, 2013)

Traps to Consider: Delaware's Merger Statute & Ratification Amendments," Deal Lawyers (November-December 2013)

Examining Data Points in Minority Buyouts: A Practitioners' Report," Delaware Journal of Corporate Law (May 1, 2012)

"The El Paso/Kinder Morgan Opinion: Further Delaware Guidance on Investment Banker Sell-Side Conflicts," The M&A Lawyer (with Victor I. Lewkow and David Leinwand) (April 2012)

"Board Focus 2012," ABA Business Law (February 2012)

"How a Hotel Case May Affect Buyouts," The New York Times (January 21, 2011)

"Lessons for Directors from Recent 'Change in Control' Sagas," Corporate Board Member (December 2010)

"Defining the Rules of the Road for Differential Consideration in M&A Transactions," Deal Lawyers (January-February 2010)

"New Investments by a Significant Stockholder—Guidelines for Boards," The M&A Lawyer (April 2009)

"How to Settle Insurgencies and Secure Stockholder Votes Without Creating New Exposures," Deal Lawyers (March-April 2008)

"Fiduciary Duty and Fraud Risks from Competing Sets of Internal Financial Reports and Projections: Guidance for Target Boards and Deal Teams," The M&A Lawyer (February 2008)

"The Need for Careful Choreography in LBOs," M&A Lawyer (2007)

"Managing the Variables in Minority Buyouts," Insights (October 2006)


June 4, 2019
Co-Moderator, “Global M&A Hot Topics,” 18th Annual IBA International Mergers & Acquisitions Conference

April 25, 2019
Panelist, “B Corps and Transactions: Fundraising, M&A, and IPO,” at The Business of Impact Investing and B Corps: Sharing the Latest and Creating Novel Best Practices

February 5, 2019
Chair, the fifth annual M&A, Antitrust & the Board Room conference in San Francisco 

November 8, 2018
Panelist, “Corporate Activism and Engagement: The New Normal,” PLI’s 50th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation 

October 11, 2018
Panelist, “Going Through the Sale Process,” Silicon Valley Bank Forum 

June 5, 2018
Panelist, “Developments in Public Company M&A,” 17th Annual International Mergers & Acquisitions Conference of the International Bar Association

May 23, 2018
Panelist, the sixth annual M&A Roundtable in New York

February 15, 2018
Chair, the fourth annual M&A, Antitrust & the Board Room conference in San Francisco (recap posted here)

March 30, 2017
Moderator for keynote presentation with Ed Garden, the Chief Investment Officer and founding partner of Trian Partners (one of the world’s most successful activist funds), and Gerald Hassell, the Chair and CEO of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (which has undergone significant internal transformation in recent years while Mr. Garden has served on its board and Trian has been a shareholder) at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute

December 9, 2016
Panelist, “Preparing For Shareholder Activism: What You Need To Be Doing Now 2016, Annual PLI seminar

June 7, 2016
Moderator, “M&A agreement structuring and foreign investment controls – CFIUS and analogous regimes, 15th Annual International Mergers & Acquisitions Conference of the International Bar Association

May 18-19, 2016
Participant, The 2016 M&A Roundtable – New York City, organized by Berkeley Center for Law, Business & the Economy and Kirkland & Ellis

March 11, 2016
Panelist, “Shareholder Activism: What Must Companies Be Mindful Of in 2016? at Georgetown Law Corporate Counsel Institute 2016

January 29, 2016
Moderator and Leader, Antitrust, IP, Board Processes, and M&A in 2016: Challenges and Conundrums for the West Coast

October 28, 2015
Moderator and Panel Chair, “Activism in 2016: Understanding the Dynamics of the Changing Landscape and Changing Roles at 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute

September 30, 2015
Panelist, PLI's Preparing For Shareholder Activism: What You Need To Be Doing Now 2015

June 10, 2015
Panelist, “M&A transactions and anti-corruption laws, 14th Annual International Mergers & Acquisitions Conference of the International Bar Association

February 26, 2015
Leader, Private M&A Wake-Up Calls: Conflicted Board Risks, Post-Closing Unenforceability, & Shareholder Approval/Duty of Care Traps

January 23, 2015
Moderator and Leader, Antitrust, Governance, M&A in 2015: Challenges and Conundrums for the West Coast

November 18, 2014
Panelist, 13th Annual Corporate Governance and Disclosure Seminar

November 11, 2014
Leader, Transactions, Tactics & Opportunities:  Israel and Global Dealmaking

November 05, 2014
Panelist, “The Developing Playbooks for Activists’ Challenges and Corporate Responses at 46th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation

March 10, 2014
Event Chair and Moderator, The Conference Board Governance Watch: Activism's Chemistry with Non-Activist Investors and the Role of the Board

May 22, 2013
Participant, Harvard Law School M&A Roundtable

October 17, 2012
Panelist, Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals 2012 Regional Fall Conference

June 14, 2012
Moderator, The Conference Board's Annual Directors' Roundtable

February 23, 2012
Panelist, PLI's Going Private 2012: Doing the Deal Right

November 02, 2011
Moderator and Panelist, The Conference Board's Shareholder Activism in Uncertain Times

June 07, 2011
Panelist, Bloomberg:  Financial Advisors and Conflict of Interest in M&A Transactions

February 24, 2011
Panelist, PLI's Going Private 2011: Doing the Deal Right

October 07, 2010
Panelist, Seventh Annual Institute on Corporate, Securities and Related Aspects of Mergers & Acquisitions

September 13, 2010
Panelist, The SEC's New Proxy Access Rules: What Comes Next?

February 25, 2010
Panelist, PLI's Going Private 2010: Doing the Deal Right

February 26, 2009
Panelist, PLI's Going Private 2009: Doing the Deal Right