Martin Lipton, inventor of the “poison pill” anti-takeover defense honored by IIE

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John Sexton, president emeritus of New York University; Martin Lipton, co-founder, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and NYU trustee; Andrew Hamilton, president, NYU

Esteemed M&A attorney Martin (“Marty”) Lipton was honored at a black-tie event hosted by the Institute of International Education at The Pierre in New York on Oct. 30. Called the “the king of M&A,” the co-founder of New York law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, is well known to dealmakers as the architect of the anti-takeover defense strategy known as the “poison pill.”

Lipton was awarded the IIE Stephen P. Duggan Award for Mutual Understanding “in recognition of his lifetime of extraordinary achievement and his lasting contribution to international higher education.” Lipton serves on the New York University board of trustees and was chairman from 1998 to 2015. He is credited with leading the effort that made NYU the first global network university.

At the 2019 IIE Centennial Gala, Lipton spoke on a panel with fellow NYU trustees Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot and the founder of Invemed Associates LLC; and Larry Silverstein, the chairman of Silverstein Properties, the developer of the new World Trade Center. Moderating the panel was veteran business broadcaster Maria Bartiromo, who in 1995 became the first journalist to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on a daily basis. Baritromo is also a trustee of NYU.

“This is a great world and a great country,” said Lipton. “But not everything is right. Inequality has grown by leaps and bounds. Unless we can adjust economies to mitigate inequalities, to make education accessible to all and to give people the feeling that they can compete in the world, we will not realize our full potential. Education is the most important aspect.”

In the M&A world, Lipton created a strategy that helped companies level the playing field. Starting in the 1970s, T. Boone Pickens, Carl Icahn and others were alarming corporate boards. “We had reached a whole new plateau of hostile takeovers, and there was really very little in the way of defense to them,” Lipton told The Deal back in 2010. He recalled devising a “shareholder rights plan” in 1982 to give boards of a target company time to weigh offers.

More than 450 leaders in business, philanthropy, government and higher education attended the gala. The IIE supports flagship educational and cultural exchange programs on behalf of the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, in addition to government, corporate and foundation programs. IIE assists scholars, students and artists threatened by conflict and unrest in their home countries.

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