BY TIMOTHY HARPER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL PARAS
How Martin Lipton changed corporate law
FOR A MAN KNOWN FOR PRECISION WHEN IT COMES TO
plotting corporate legal strategies, Martin Lipton can be vague
talking about himself.
“One thing led to another,” he says. “Things just went well,” he says.
About the only way to get Lipton, 82, to make a definitive
statement about himself is to ask if he’s thinking about retirement.
“People always ask, do you have a plan, do you have a strategy?”
he says. “Actually, yes, I do have a plan. I plan on doing what I am
doing until I can’t do it anymore. That’s my plan.”
For decades, Lipton, of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, has held
an exalted position in the American legal landscape. He and his
firm built a nonpareil brand in the practice of corporate law, which
includes Lipton’s sweeping influence on corporate governance
and the way mergers and acquisitions are conducted—or not
conducted. He invented the “poison pill” defense to prevent
corporate takeovers, which many experts consider one of the
most significant legal developments in corporate law in the 20th
century. And in a career that has not been without criticism (“I am
not the most popular person among activist hedge funds and the
corporate raider crowd,” he says), there is new appreciation for
Lipton’s longtime disdain for managers and investors driven by the
promise of short-term returns.