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Philip A. Gelston

Partner, Corporate

Philip A. Gelston is a partner in Cravath’s Corporate Department and serves as the Chair of its Mergers and Acquisitions practice. He has extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and general corporate counseling. Mr. Gelston’s practice encompasses complicated negotiated transactions, hostile transactions (both offense and defense), cross‑border transactions, activist defense, and advising boards and senior executives, particularly on corporate governance or managing crisis situations.

Mr. Gelston’s clients have included Kraft Foods Inc.; Mondelēz International, Inc.; White Mountains Insurance Group, Ltd.; OneBeacon Insurance Group, Ltd.; BAE Systems; Gerber Scientific; NextEra Energy; Kerzner International; the independent directors of General Motors; British American Tobacco; The Tengelmann Group; Novartis AG; and London Stock Exchange Group, plc.

Mr. Gelston’s assignments include representing Mondelēz in its negotiations with Trian over board representation; Kraft in its spin‑off of its North American grocery business, its successful bid for Cadbury, the sale of its frozen pizza business to Nestlé and its tax‑free disposition of its Post cereal business to Ralcorp; the independent directors of General Motors in connection with the financial and operational restructuring of GM as well as in connection with the conversion of GMAC into a bank holding company; White Mountains Insurance in its sale of its Esurance to Allstate; the creation of Build America Mutual Insurance and its disposition of two run‑off businesses to Berkshire Hathaway through a tax‑free “cash rich” split‑off; and Gerber Scientific in its sale to an affiliate of Vector Capital Corporation.

Other representative assignments include advising B.A.T plc and Brown & Williamson in the combination of Brown & Williamson with RJR; White Mountains Insurance in its acquisition of CGU Corp.; IGEN International in its acquisition by Hoffman La Roche; BAE Systems in its acquisitions of United Defense and the AES Business of Lockheed Martin as well as in the examination of a number of other strategic transactions; Financial Security Assurance Holdings in its sale to Dexia; White Mountains Insurance in its redomestication to Bermuda; Applebee’s International in its proxy fight with Breeden Partners and its sale to IHOP; and Novartis in the sale of Gerber to Nestlé.

Mr. Gelston has also advised boards and senior management of clients, such as White Mountains Insurance, Mondelēz, B.A.T, General Motors, Kraft, Pinnacle West, Symetra, Starbucks, IGEN International, Gerber Scientific, OneBeacon, NextEra Energy, Flowserve, Axis Capital and Kerzner, on governance and takeover vulnerability issues.

Mr. Gelston’s pro bono work includes serving as a trustee of the Bronx Preparatory Charter School in New York and of The Lark Play Development Center.

Mr. Gelston has been repeatedly cited as one of the country’s leading practitioners in mergers and acquisitions by, among others, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business from 2007 through 2013; Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business from 2007 through 2014; The Legal 500 in 2012 and 2013; and The Best Lawyers in America from 2007 through 2014. In addition, Cravath’s mergers and acquisitions practice received a high ranking by Chambers for being “knowledgeable and responsive, with excellent levels of service.” In 2012, Mr. Gelston was chosen by corporate counsel as one of the BTI Client Service All‑Stars for his exceptional commitment to understanding his clients’ legal and business objectives, recognizing client goals and providing innovative and effective solutions tailored specifically to the client’s desired outcome.

Mr. Gelston was born in New York, New York. He received an A.B. cum laude from Harvard College in 1974, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977, where he was the Supreme Court Note Editor of the Law Review and awarded the Sears Prize. After a one‑year clerkship with Hon. John M. Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, he joined Cravath in 1978. Mr. Gelston became a partner in 1984.

Mr. Gelston may be reached by phone at +1‑212‑474‑1548 or by email at

+1 (212) 474-1548
+1 (212) 474-3700