SCOOP: Houlihan Lokey names activism defense chief

This story originally appeared on Activist Insight Online, February 12, 2019.

Mark Mikullitz, who until recently was head of contested situations at Deutsche Bank, has joined Houlihan Lokey to reinvigorate its work in activism advisory, Activist Insight Online has learned. Houlihan plans to announce the news later on Tuesday.

The former Skadden lawyer turned banker has been at the boutique for about a week and has been charged with focusing on representing companies facing pressure from activists. He led Deutsche Bank’s defense team for about 18 months, after long stints at J.P. Morgan and Jefferies.

“Mark’s prior work on both traditional M&A transactions and activist defense engagements is outstanding, and his experience and knowledge make him an excellent cultural match with Houlihan Lokey’s mission to provide thoughtful, expert, and independent advice,” Houlihan’s global head of M&A, Steven Tishman, said in a statement.

Los Angeles-based Houlihan is known for its strengths in M&A advisory, particularly its role providing fairness opinions for transactions. It was also one of the few banks to open its doors to activists – and remains so, after rival Moelis & Co opted to focus exclusively on defense last year.

Houlihan will continue to represent activists, a spokesman told Activist Insight Online Monday, but Mikullitz will focus on defense.

“I look forward to partnering with my colleagues across the firm and continue to build on the firm’s momentum in both public company M&A advisory and in advising clients on how best to prepare for, and successfully manage, shareholder activist situations,” Mikullitz said.

Under Gregg Feinstein, its former head of U.S. M&A, Houlihan amassed a talented group of bankers and a steady stream of mandates. Yet when Feinstein died in 2016 at the age of 54, the bankers dispersed to other banks or activist funds.

A few banks have worked with activists since, but competition on the defense side has intensified with middle-market firms like Stifel and Raymond James setting up defense practices and bulge bracket latecomers Citigroup and Jefferies attempting to muscle in on the market in pursuit of lucrative M&A advisory agreements.

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