Michael Valente knows how to keep a cool head. In the past few years alone, Valente has expertly guided a global company through a spin-off from a major gas and chemicals corporation as well as a tumultuous $5.8 billion merger with German conglomerate Merck KGaA. Throughout all of these challenges, Valente’s steady commitment to his team and to the business has shined through.
An accounting major at Rider University, Valente enrolled in concurrent JD and MBA programs at Seton Hall University after graduating in 1990. While pursuing his JD and MBA, Valente also worked as a staff accountant at New Jersey–based advisory and accounting firm WithumSmith+Brown.
In 1998, following his graduation from Seton Hall University, Valente accepted a clerkship with the Honorable James Petrella on the Superior Court of New Jersey. The fifteen years after that clerkship saw Valente cultivate an expert understanding of legal matters in general and mergers and acquisitions in particular: after a nearly three-year stint as a corporate attorney at Lowenstein Sandler PC, Valente transitioned to the in-house department of specialty chemicals and materials company Rockwood Holdings Inc.
Valente spent close to thirteen years at Rockwood, starting out as a senior corporate counsel and eventually securing the role of VP and general counsel, which gave him oversight of internal investigations and compliance, strategic alliances such as the sale of Rockwood Holdings to Albermarle Inc., corporate governance, M&A, and more.
The Versum Timeline
Versum expands into the electronics market as a subsidiary of Air Products
Air Products develops industry-first bulk and specialty gas service MEGASYS
Air Products launches a global venture, partnering with leading Japanese electronics companies
The Air Products Electronic Chemicals (APEC) business group forms
Versum Materials spins off in October
Versum completes merger with Germany-based Merck
Source: Versum Materials
In 2015, Valente was recruited to serve as general counsel of Air Products based on his experience in M&A matters. As GC, Valente was responsible for managing the spin-off of Versum Materials, a subsidiary of Air Products and an American company known for producing the electronic materials used in breakthrough products and technologies. In fact, the company’s future-oriented mind-set is reflected in its name, “Versum,” which derives from the Latin word for “toward.”
Thanks to Valente’s guidance, Air Products was able to successfully complete a tax-free spin-off of Versum in October 2016. Valente himself also left Air Products at that time, joining Versum’s leadership team as SVP, general counsel, and secretary.
“It required everyone to take initiative, so we changed [the] culture of division to create a sense of accountability and responsibility [so] that they can really elevate their performance and energy,” Valente said of the spin-off in an interview with The Legal 500. “General counsel often refer to the business as clients. I’ve tried to change that view because it sounds like you’re detached from the client. The team should recognize it can impact the company. [We] should be business partners as opposed to clients because we have [a] vested interest in the success of the company.”
Valente’s external partners have noticed his ability to lead companies through transitional periods. “Michael has an exemplary track record of guiding companies through transformational deals and other high-stakes matters,” says Roxane F. Reardon, partner at Simpson Thatcher. “His dedication, breadth, depth, versatility and ability to identify key strategic business opportunities make him a true leader.”
And things haven’t slowed down for Valente since the 2016 spin-off. In January 2019, Versum announced an upcoming merger with Entegris Inc, a specialty chemicals and materials solutions company renowned within the microelectronics industry. Just a few months later, however, Entegris was outbid by Merck, a multinational chemical, pharmaceutical, and life sciences company headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany.
Through its partnership with Versum, which was finalized in October 2019, Merck aims to capitalize on the recent growth of the electronics industry, enhancing its portfolio of advanced materials and accelerating its production of next-generation semiconductor technologies.
In recognition of his unwavering leadership throughout this process as well as his history of success with more than thirty corporate acquisitions and divestures, Valente was named to The Legal 500’s US GC Powerlist in 2019.
“Complimenting Michael for his skills as a lawyer is like complimenting a quarterback for having a great arm. Yes, it is an important competent of his success, but his leadership skills are so much more important,” says Nick San Filippo, partner at Lowenstein Sandler. “Michael builds and leads highly driven teams with a culture focused on excellence and delivering measurable results.”
Simpson Thacher is proud to partner with Michael Valente and the legal team of Versum Materials in its announced acquisition by Merck. Widely recognized as one of the preeminent law firms in the world, Simpson Thacher offers clients a world-class M&A team with decades of experience in structuring, negotiating and completing some of the most complex and transformative transactions. A remarkable array of clients, from large multinationals to Fortune 500 companies to smaller and closely held private companies to emerging companies, turn to Simpson Thacher for effective, value-added solutions to critical commercial challenges.