Abigail with attitude: Phone charger – Verizon flexes its muscles

Abigail Hofman
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It has been an oddly eerie summer. Everybody seems to have fled to the beach, leaving a few journalists to eke out the occasional interesting story.

Developed markets drifted, emerging markets crumpled and a new word was added to the financial lexicon: "tapering".

However, during the final week of August, we were awakened from somnolence by reports that president Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against his own citizens. Heightened tensions in the tinderbox Middle East and a looming US military strike against Syria make an uncomfortable start to September.

On a more positive note, we have recently had some blockbuster M&A deals, such as the $35 billion Omnicom/Publicis mega-merger and the muscular, $130 billion Vodafone/Verizon transaction. "It’s a big problem if you’re not involved in the Vodafone deal," a banker whispered. "This will have a huge impact on the league tables. But more important, you will miss out on all the ancillary trades, such as financing and hedging, which could be even more profitable than the high-profile M&A fees themselves."

The Verizon deal is the third-largest deal ever announced. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are the global coordinators for the financing and the M&A advisers for Verizon (together with Guggenheim Securities and Paul J Taubman). Vodafone was advised by Goldman Sachs and UBS.

Kiosks are doing for star investment bankers what hedge funds did for star traders. A source insists Paul Taubman will be paid $10 million for his work on Verizon/Vodafone
Taubman, Morgan Stanley’s co-head of institutional securities, left the US firm last year after a shoot-out with Colm Kelleher, his co-president. A source insists that Taubman will be paid $10 million for his work on the Verizon deal.

Apparently, talented Mr T has now set up his own advisory ‘kiosk’. A kiosk is smaller than a boutique but surely no less beautiful. I am impressed by the trend for star bankers to create their own low-cost, no-frills, advisory operations. You will recall that Michael Klein, a former senior banker at Citi, also has his own kiosk and popped-up to take a starring role in the Glencore/Xstrata merger last year.

The kiosk is basically a bit of a status symbol. No effort is made to dress the organization up as a corporate entity, espousing team effort and client-focused mission statements. The kiosk is all about the principal and it’s obvious that the principal has amazingly strong client relationships because otherwise he wouldn’t be appearing on the top line of the deal. In a way, kiosks are doing for star investment bankers what hedge funds did for star traders.

The valuable employee becomes king of the castle and you can forget about bonuses paid in shares that might or might not vest in five years’ time. But if you are dealing with the Taubman kiosk, do remember that Taubman’s middle initial ‘J’ must be given due respect. Apparently the senior banker is very particular about the judicious placement of the ‘J’ in any press release.