Journalists’ Journal – David Marcus (The Deal)

by Tom Mariam on September 18, 2014

Marcus

David Marcus has been covering M&A for The Deal since its inception in 1999. His reporting has always focused on deal lawyers, tactics, and case law, tactics. He also follows developments in intellectual property as they relate to deal making. 

David shares his thoughts with Journalists Journal editor Tom Mariam on the role of lawyers in the always eventful deal sector and his coverage of it as well as how he sees the evolving world of M&A.

You have been with The Deal for much of its existence. How has it evolved over the years?

Certainly the way we deliver our reporting has changed. We’ve sent out our daily as a PDF for many years now; when we launched in 1999, we printed it. We no longer have a weekly magazine, though we do have much of that kind of analysis in our Monday morning PDF. Like many publications, we’ve had to find a revenue model that works in an industry undergoing rapid change.

In terms of ownership, we were launched by The American Lawyer in 1999, spun into a separate company a few years later, and in 2012 sold to TheStreet.com Inc., a public company.

In other ways, though, the world we cover has remained quite stable. Law firms, banks, PR firms and proxy solicitors are still major players. If you compared a list of today’s leading advisory firms with one from 1999, there would be a lot of overlap. And we launched well after the wrenching changes of the 1970s and 1980s forced American companies to be more nimble, more efficient, and more prone to engage in transactions of all types and sizes.

Why are lawyers and law firms such an important part of your coverage?

Every transaction that we cover involves lawyers – usually outside lawyers, but invariably in-house lawyers. Every deal we cover generates a set of documents that lawyers write. As regulators or judges, lawyers craft the decisions that determine behavior in future deals and that practicing lawyers will have to interpret. So lawyers and the firms in which they work are central to the world we cover.  

How, if at all, have you seen the lawyers’ role changing within the deal community?

Regulatory lawyers have become far more important after the financial crisis. More firms are national or global than was the case a generation ago, which makes them larger and harder to run and means it’s harder for senior lawyers to balance practice and management responsibilities.

How can lawyers be of most value to your reporting?

Some lawyers enjoy interacting with the media, and those lawyers are most helpful when they’re candid in what they say. They may not always be able to be candid, of course, but honest discussion of a case, deal or issue is invaluable. Even when lawyers are exceptionally busy or have other priorities or frankly don’t enjoy dealing with the media, their quick response when one of us asks for names of advisors on a deal is very helpful to our reporters and greatly appreciated. It’s also good for the firm. 

Many law firms work on proposed transactions that are not automatic headline grabbers like Comcast-Time Warner, how do you determine which deals should be covered?

We cover deals of $100 million or more in our database, and the accumulation of that data over time is very important to us. We can often add more value to readers reporting on those deals than we can on massive transactions that are exhaustively covered in numerous outlets.

All of our reporters look for situations that may have outsized importance to lawyers, bankers or investors. Antitrust lawyers, for example, may value our coverage of a DOJ or FTC challenge to a $200 million hospital merger highly because the issues in that situation are relevant in many others.

Having said that, on any given day in any newsroom of any media outlet, there are number of variables that help determine what gets covered. A $300 million deal announced on a Friday in the summer may be a lead story for us; if it’s announced on a busy Monday in May, it will not get the same coverage.

What trends do you see happening regarding transactions, both now and into the future?

The first half of 2014 saw an extraordinary amount of M&A activity in the pharma/biotech sector and a very high level of activity in technology. Those are both sectors driven by intellectual property, which has become much more important in dealmaking in the last several years. As companies become more global and regulators in emerging economies, particularly China, become more aggressive, there will be more regulatory issues on more deals. 

How can law firm marketers and communicators help The Deal with its coverage of the legal industry?

Unlike Above The Law or The American Lawyer, we focus more on transactions than on developments within the legal industry. But we do track lateral moves very closely, so letting us know when those occur is helpful.

How can law firms work most effectively with you, both reactively and proactively?

Be proactive in getting us information on lateral hires and advisory roles on M&A transactions. Think about which of your lawyers would be particularly effective at relating to the media and introduce those lawyers to reporters.

What is your professional background?

I graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 1996 and started working at The American Lawyer the next year, primarily as a reporter for Corporate Control Alert, which Steve Brill started in the 1980s to cover M&A. When AmLaw launched The Deal in 1999, it placed CCA under The Deal’s aegis, where both it and I have remained ever since.

What would you like us to know about you aside from being a journalist?

I work part-time at Frankly Wines in Tribeca, conveniently located just a block and a half south of the 2/3 Chambers St. stop.

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