CORRECTED-MOVES-UBS hires Houlihan Lokey's Novak for activism defense

Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:54am EDT
 
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(In first paragraph of Oct 12 item, corrects Novak's title to director from managing director)

By Lauren Hirsch and Michael Flaherty

Oct 12 (Reuters) - UBS Group AG has hired Darren Novak, a director at Houlihan Lokey Inc, in its New York office to advise companies on how to defend themselves against activist investors, a spokeswoman for UBS said on Wednesday.

UBS's hiring of Novak comes as the Swiss bank scales back its traditional reliance on its balance sheet for investment banking and focuses on fostering strong relationships with companies and occasionally using lending to support deals.

This strategy has gradually been paying off, as UBS jumped from twelfth to eighth in the global M&A league tables through the first three quarters of the year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Novak's new role represents a tactical switch after he worked with activist investors at Houlihan, offering them advice on pressuring companies. At UBS, he will focus on defending companies from activist attacks.

Before joining Houlihan in 2011, Novak worked as an M&A partner at Canadian law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. Before that, he worked at two other law firms, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and White & Case LLP.

Among the situations he worked on, Novak advised P. Schoenfeld Asset Management on its campaign against T-Mobile US Inc's merger with MetroPCS Communications Inc, which resulted in the terms of the deal being sweetened.

Novak is the second activist banker to have left Houlihan Lokey this year. In June, his former colleague Geoffrey Sorbello moved to Elliott Management Corp, a $27 billion activist hedge fund. (Reporting by Lauren Hirsch and Michael Flaherty in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)