Last year AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion, which was the biggest merger of 2016 – a year that let investment bankers down. This massive deal, which we analysed here, is in terms of the transaction value nowhere near to the biggest deal in history. Let’s look at the 5 biggest mergers and acquisitions of all time (and their advisers) based on data from Yahoo Finance.

5. AT&T and BellSouth – $86 billion, 2006


In 2006, AT&T successfully acquired BellSouth, an American telecommunication holding company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Interestingly, both AT&T and BellSouth were spun off from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in the 1980s after an antitrust lawsuit from the US government. This deal was the largest telecommunications merger in history worth $86 billion.

According to New York Times deal book, BellSouth hired Goldman Sachs and Citigroup while Lehman Bros, Citigroup and Evercore Partners advised AT&T.

4. Pfizer and Warner-Lambert – $90 billion, 2000

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In 2000, Pfizer created the biggest pharmaceutical company in the US when it acquired Warner-Lambert.  The takeover was considered to be one of the most hostile in history, after the three months of drama that preceded the deal. American Home Products Corporation wanted to purchase Warner-Lambert, but Pfizer did not want to lose control of the popular drug Lipitor which it brought to market in cooperation with Warner-Lambert. Consequently, Pfizer had to pay as much as $90 billion to acquire Warner-Lambert. Post merger, Lipitor became one of Pfizer’s best-selling drugs.

According to, leading advisers were Merrill Lynch and Guggenheim Partners.

3. Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless – $130 billion, 2013

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Verizon Communications agreed to pay $130 billion in order to take full control of Verizon Wireless which was partly owned by Vodafone. According to, this Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon was paid by almost half in cash and half in Verizon stock.

According to UK Reuters, Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch acted as leading financial advisors to Verizon. Goldman Sachs and UBS advised Vodafone.

2. AOL and Time Warner – $164 billion, 2000

Time Warner, New York, USA

The infamous AOL’s purchase of TimeWarner was meant to revolutionise the internet in the 21st century. The second largest deal of all time worth $164 billion was unfortunately poorly timed and resulted in AOL stock dropping from $226 billion to about $20 billion after the tech bubble burst. AOL was later spun off in 2009.

The list of advisers included heavy hitters like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch. According to Thomson Financials, these bulge bracket bankers made a fortune – advisers collectively received $120m in fees.

1. Vodafone and Mannesmann – $180 billion, 2000

Vodafone Logo

The biggest deal in history saw UK-based Vodafone swallow up its German counterpart Mannesmann. This Vodafone’s acquisition created the world’s largest mobile operator. The deal was sealed in February 2000 after a long struggle with Mannesmann’s shareholders. Vodafone also became the largest company on the London stock market at the time and the fourth largest in the world.

Vodafone successful takeover of Mannesmann AG meant bumper fees for the investment bankers. According to the, the overall cost to Vodafone of the Mannesmann bid, including Mannesmann’s advisory expenses, was in the region of astronomical £600 million!

Investment banks usually expect to earn between five and ten basis points of the total deal’s value but this figure becomes an absolute one when transactions get to the huge proportions of recent mergers. The rule of thumb is, the bigger the deal, the heavier the bankers’ wallets.

According to New York Times, Vodafone’s lead advisers were Goldman Sachs and Warburg Dillon Read who were expected to earn enormous $125 million in fees. Mannesmann’s advisers were Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, J. P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley. How much Mannesmann’s advisers earned is unclear.

In 2017 we will see some notable deals, but most likely none of them will make it to the top 5 list. On the other hand, there are companies such as Airbnb or Uber that could go public in 2017 and could become some of the biggest IPOs ever.