When the office in Stockholm opened in 1991, Carl Svernlöv had been working at Baker McKenzie's office in New York since October 1990. As a newly graduated lawyer, he worked with M&A in one of the world's most transaction-dense markets. In 1993, Carl moved back to Sweden and joined the Stockholm office.
With a career spanning over three decades, Carl has some interesting reflections. We asked Carl to share a particularly memorable case from the early years.
The Swedish government, KF and Neste sold OK Petroleum for almost SEK 6 billion
"In 1994, I was one of the advisers in the process of selling the OK Petroleum oil company, Sweden's then largest oil company with a turnover of SEK 19 billion. The sellers were the Swedish government, Swedish Kooperativa Förbundet and the Finnish state-owned petroleum company Neste.
"There were many interested bidders; in particular I remember a Russian oil company. This was only a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the time when Russian companies began to operate outside the former Soviet Union. A Russian company was interested in acquiring the company but its negotiator was sceptical about the deal: 'You have suggested that we buy the shares in the company, but how can you guarantee that we will get control of the assets?' They had a hard time understanding the Nordic way of doing business, insisting instead on an asset transfer, to ensure that they were not cheated. Needless to say, we didn't reach an agreement with that bidder."
In the end, the buyer was Corral Petroleum Holdings, owned by Saudi businessperson Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi, who paid SEK 5.9 billion, in cash, for OK Petroleum. The company was split up in 1995. The larger part was renamed Preem in 1996 and the smaller part was taken over by the Swedish Oil Consumers' Union. Al-Almoudi still owns Preem and is today also the main owner of the Midroc Group.
"I had only worked as a lawyer for four years at the time. Such a large international transaction so early into my career stands out among the many transactions that I have done since. The work was led by Stockholm partners Claes Cronstedt and Leif Gustafsson, my two mentors when I was young(er), together with partners from our London office. The case had many exciting twists and turns as well as extremely intense negotiations in smoke-filled conference rooms. When finalized, we had a memorable closing dinner at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm."
Front page of OK Petroleum's staff magazine at the time of the transaction. The photo was taken at the Stockholm office of Baker McKenzie at the actual signing of the documents on March 16, 1994. From left to right: Dr Ghazi Habib; Hans Christer Olson, Council of Ministers; Sten Niklasson, Neste Sverige AB and Lars Hjorth, KF.