Alison Ressler (photo by Alexander Drecun)

Alison Ressler (photo by Alexander Drecun)

Bharat Desai built Syntel out of his Troy, Mich., garage and into an information technology company that raked in nearly $1 billion in annual profits and employed 23,000 people across the world.

Desai wanted to cash out, but he also wanted a buyer who would stick with his vision for Syntel.

Enter Alison Ressler, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell’s Century City office. Working on behalf of Syntel’s board, Ressler quarterbacked a sometimes bumpy bidding process that included price fluctuations because of public leaks and two bidders backing out.

Atos, a French conglomerate hungry to expand its U.S. presence, became the desired acquirer and sought a period to become the exclusive bidder.

Ressler advised the Syntel board, including on the decision to grant Atos an exclusivity period to bid, which could maximize the price Atos was willing to pay.

Ressler coordinated calls between Syntel’s Michigan headquarters, Atos’ French office and India, where many of Syntel’s personnel work.

“It was a fun, satisfying and intense global process taking place in multiple time zones,” Ressler said.

The result was that Atos would pay $3.4 billion in cash to acquire Syntel while largely continuing the company’s current operations.

“We achieved a deal that was materially higher in value than what the client had anticipated at the start of the process,” Ressler said.

Atos announced the deal in July, and it closed in October.

Deal focus

Ressler’s lifeblood are deals like Atos’ Syntel takeover: high-stakes, fast-moving and subject to multiple variables.

She has worked on mergers and acquisitions since 1983, and is the head of Sullivan & Cromwell’s Global Private Equity Group.

Ressler’s practice cuts across industries.

And besides brokering one company buying or selling another, Ressler can spearhead investment rounds (like $1 billion raised in January for Verily Life Sciences, an Alphabet Inc. subsidiary), or the arrival of new investors (like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. cofounder Joe Tsai buying a 49 percent stake in the Brooklyn Nets, a National Basketball Association franchise, announced last year.)

Ressler works on multiple deals at once, leading a team of 20 to 25 attorneys for each transaction.

“She is a skillful symphony conductor,” said Arie Belldegrun, who worked with Ressler on selling his former company, Kite Pharma Inc., for $11.9 billion to Gilead Sciences Inc. in 2017.

Ressler said of her legal squad: “You need a tax team; you need a team with expertise on employee benefits, an intellectual property team involved. Then you’ll have specialists in other areas including environmental.”

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