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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Rolf has more than 30 years of experience in all types of M&A and capital market transactions. He also specialises in corporate governance matters, and teaches as a professor at the University of Zurich on these topics. He is currently chair of PostFinance, a significant player in the Swiss banking industry, and has served as chair/board member of over a dozen Swiss listed and non-listed companies. He is consistently ranked among the top Swiss lawyers for M&A and corporate work.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career?

When I studied law, I was initially mainly interested in constitutional law and what we call “public law” in Switzerland. It was only towards the end of my studies that corporate law came into focus. I soon discovered its practical importance at a time when business was developing in all sorts of directions, becoming more international and considering M&A opportunities for external growth. At that time Switzerland modernised its corporate law, introduced new stock exchange rules and began to regulate capital markets. So, with the corporate legal environment becoming much more dynamic, it was only natural for a young lawyer to concentrate on this field with all the opportunities it offered.

What motivated you to specialise in M&A and corporate governance?

There was not much M&A activity in the mid-1980s but I was fortunate enough to be able to participate as a trainee in one larger transaction. So after my bar exam I decided to write a further thesis, concentrating on this topic, in order to become a professor, and I obtained a scholarship to do this in the United States. This academic work positioned me well when the first M&A wave rolled over Switzerland in the early 1990s. My interest in corporate governance came later (in fact the term “corporate governance” hardly existed in Switzerland before this century), when I was able to join the board of two listed companies where I gained insight into leadership questions at bigger organisations. This then led to academic work in this field, and the mix of practical experience and research helped me to develop expertise in governance questions.

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

The biggest change in the M&A field is that standards have evolved with the large number of transactions we have seen in Switzerland over the past 30 years. This applies to both public and private deals. These standards make the legal work much more efficient and there is now no need to spend long nights discussing fundamental questions of how to address or solve certain issues. A further driver has been that lawyers active in this field have taken steps to specialise, which also makes the process faster and more professional. Finally, clients and their legal departments are much more sophisticated nowadays than they were years ago – this is another factor that helps to speed up transactions.

What do clients look for in an effective corporate governance lawyer?

It is vital to base the advice on practical experience and insight into how other, similar organisations or competitors deal with the matters the client is interested in. But effective governance work of course goes further than having a solid understanding of leadership issues and business needs. It requires a foundation of deep knowledge of corporate law and stock exchange rules. In many areas of governance work it is also very important to know how shareholders think and what might drive them in certain situations.

Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting case you have been a part of?

I was fortunate enough to be involved in many situations that were highly interesting and challenging. Most interesting of all were those occasions where we had to develop novel solutions, often at short notice. One example was the purchase of Swiss by Lufthansa, where foreign ownership rules endangered landing and fly-over rights for planes flying under the Swiss banner. As the lawyer for Swiss, I worked to help solve these issues by developing a foundation-based ownership structure.

How is the generational shift changing legal practice at your firm? What do younger lawyers do differently?

As transactions today are increasingly standardised, and because they are done in a much more efficient manner, the organisational and execution skills of young lawyers have become more important – sometimes more critical than knowledge of the law itself.

How do you anticipate the Swiss legal market changing in the next five years?

I do not expect to see radical change, but the factors that drove change in the past will not go away. This means that specialisation will continue, which generally favours bigger law firms. I also think that companies will continue to insource legal work that they believe to be core to their business. This means that law firms need to continue to concentrate on all matters that are more or less unique in the life of a company, such as large-scale litigation, M&A or capital markets transactions.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The two founders of Bär & Karrer represented two distinct philosophies: Thomas Bär stood for client focus, with a solution- and business-driven approach to all work; Robert Karrer for legal excellence. The two of them always emphasised the importance of both factors, and that a good lawyer should combine them. That’s really sound advice and I hope I can pass it on to all young lawyers working in our firm or elsewhere.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rolf Watter is a strong transactional lawyer with considerable experience handling complex matters in the capital markets arena.

Biography

Rolf Watter heads the M&A–transaction practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been partner since 1994. He has broad experience in all types of M&A transactions, including defence mandates. He also specialises in corporate governance questions and capital market transactions.

He has been chairman of PostFinance AG since 2013 and is presently vice-chairman of CEVA Logistics AG (chairman 2018–2019) and a board member of Aryzta AG, AP Alternative Portfolio and of the privately held Faber Castell (Holding) AG. Rolf Watter used to be a board member in a number of Swiss listed companies, namely Zurich Insurance Group, Nobel Biocare (chairman 2012–2014), Syngenta, Centrepulse and Forbo. In addition, he is a member of the regulatory board of the SIX Swiss Exchange. 

Rolf is an editor of the GesKR and the Basler Kommentare on the Code of Obligations II, the Financial Infrastructure Act, the Banking and the Merger Act. He regularly publishes in his fields of work.

Rolf holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich and a LLM from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Further, Rolf Watter has been a professor at the University of Zurich since 1996. He is a member of the Zurich as well as the Swiss Bar Association. He speaks German, English and French.

In Chambers Global and Chambers Europe, Rolf Watter is consistently ranked in “tier 1” of the leading lawyers for corporate/M&A in Switzerland. Best Lawyers awarded him Lawyer of the Year 2016 in corporate in the Zurich area. He is listed among the top 30 corporate governance practitioners in the world by Expertguides.

Rolf Watter won the ILO Client Choice Award Switzerland in the category M&A (2016 and 2018) and capital markets (2014).

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

M&A 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rolf Watter is praised for his excellent work in corporate transactions by market commentators who describe him as "strong in public M&A".

Biography

Rolf Watter heads the M&A–transaction practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been partner since 1994. He has broad experience in all types of M&A transactions, including defence mandates. He also specialises in corporate governance questions and capital market transactions.

He has been chairman of PostFinance AG since 2013 and is presently vice-chairman of CEVA Logistics AG (chairman 2018–2019) and a board member of Aryzta AG, AP Alternative Portfolio and of the privately held Faber Castell (Holding) AG. Rolf Watter used to be a board member in a number of Swiss listed companies, namely Zurich Insurance Group, Nobel Biocare (chairman 2012–2014), Syngenta, Centrepulse and Forbo. In addition, he is a member of the regulatory board of the SIX Swiss Exchange. He also regularly advises SIX on various issues.

Rolf is an editor of the GesKR and the Basler Kommentare on the Code of Obligations II, the Financial Infrastructure Act, the Banking and the Merger Act. He regularly publishes in his fields of work.

Rolf holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich and a LLM from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Further, Rolf Watter has been a professor at the University of Zurich since 1996. He is a member of the Zurich as well as the Swiss Bar Association. He speaks German, English and French.

In Chambers Global and Chambers Europe, Rolf Watter is consistently ranked in “tier 1” of the leading lawyers for corporate/M&A in Switzerland. Best Lawyers awarded him Lawyer of the Year 2016 in corporate in the Zurich area. He is listed among the top 30 corporate governance practitioners in the world by Expertguides.

Rolf Watter won the ILO Client Choice Award Switzerland in the category M&A (2016 and 2018) and capital markets (2014).

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

National Leader

Switzerland - Capital Markets

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rolf Watter is a well-recognised name in the Swiss market who impresses with his strong knowledge of debt and equity-related matters.

Biography

Rolf Watter heads the M&A–transaction practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been partner since 1994. He has broad experience in all types of M&A transactions, including defence mandates. He also specialises in corporate governance questions and capital market transactions.

He is presently chairman of PostFinance AG and CEVA Logistics AG and a board member of Aryzta AG, AP Alternative Portfolio and of the privately held Faber Castell (Holding) AG. Rolf Watter used to be a board member in a number of Swiss listed companies, namely Zurich Insurance Group, Nobel Biocare, Syngenta, Centrepulse and Forbo. In addition, he is a member of the regulatory board of the SIX Swiss Exchange. He also regularly advises SIX on various issues.

Rolf is an editor of the GesKR and the Basler Kommentare on the Code of Obligations II, the Financial Infrastructure Act, the Banking and the Merger Act. He regularly publishes in his fields of work.

Rolf holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich and a LLM from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Further, Rolf Watter has been a professor at the University of Zurich since 1996. He is a member of the Zurich as well as the Swiss Bar Association. He speaks German, English and French.

In Chambers Global and Chambers Europe, Rolf Watter is consistently ranked in “tier 1” of the leading lawyers for corporate/M&A in Switzerland. Best Lawyers awarded him Lawyer of the Year 2016 in corporate in the Zurich area. He is listed among the top 30 corporate governance practitioners in the world by Expertguides.

In the Bilanz, a Swiss economy journal, Rolf Watter has been listed as one of the two most influential lawyers in Switzerland since 2009. Rolf Watter won the ILO Client Choice Award Switzerland in the category M&A (2016 and 2018) and capital markets (2014).

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rolf Watter is lauded by peers as “a leading lawyer in the Swiss market”, with decades of experience in corporate governance mandates to his name.

Biography

Rolf Watter heads the M&A–transaction practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been partner since 1994. He has broad experience in all types of M&A transactions, including defence mandates. He also specialises in corporate governance questions and capital market transactions.

He is presently chairman of PostFinance AG and CEVA Logistics AG and a board member of Aryzta AG, AP Alternative Portfolio and of the privately held Faber Castell (Holding) AG. Rolf Watter used to be a board member in a number of Swiss listed companies, namely Zurich Insurance Group, Nobel Biocare, Syngenta, Centrepulse and Forbo. In addition, he is a member of the regulatory board of the SIX Swiss Exchange. He also regularly advises SIX on various issues.

Rolf is an editor of the GesKR and the Basler Kommentare on the Code of Obligations II, the Financial Infrastructure Act, the Banking and the Merger Act. He regularly publishes in his fields of work.

Rolf holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich and a LLM from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Further, Rolf Watter has been a professor at the University of Zurich since 1996. He is a member of the Zurich as well as the Swiss Bar Association. He speaks German, English and French.

In Chambers Global and Chambers Europe, Rolf Watter is consistently ranked in “tier 1” of the leading lawyers for corporate/M&A in Switzerland. Best Lawyers awarded him Lawyer of the Year 2016 in corporate in the Zurich area. He is listed among the top 30 corporate governance practitioners in the world by Expertguides.

In the Bilanz, a Swiss economy journal, Rolf Watter has been listed as one of the two most influential lawyers in Switzerland since 2009. Rolf Watter won the ILO Client Choice Award Switzerland in the category M&A (2016 and 2018) and capital markets (2014).

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Switzerland - M&A

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rolf Watter has a deep understanding of M&A, impressing sources with his "extensive know-how paired with the broadest possible experience of the requirements of a listed company".

Biography

Rolf Watter heads the M&A–transaction practice at Bär & Karrer. He is based in Zurich and has been partner since 1994. He has broad experience in all types of M&A transactions, including defence mandates. He also specialises in corporate governance questions and capital market transactions.

He is presently chairman of PostFinance AG and CEVA Logistics AG and a board member of Aryzta AG, AP Alternative Portfolio and of the privately held Faber Castell (Holding) AG. Rolf Watter used to be a board member in a number of Swiss listed companies, namely Zurich Insurance Group, Nobel Biocare, Syngenta, Centrepulse and Forbo. In addition, he is a member of the regulatory board of the SIX Swiss Exchange. He also regularly advises SIX on various issues.

Rolf is an editor of the GesKR and the Basler Kommentare on the Code of Obligations II, the Financial Infrastructure Act, the Banking and the Merger Act. He regularly publishes in his fields of work.

Rolf holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich and a LLM from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Further, Rolf Watter has been a professor at the University of Zurich since 1996. He is a member of the Zurich as well as the Swiss Bar Association. He speaks German, English and French.

In Chambers Global and Chambers Europe, Rolf Watter is consistently ranked in “tier 1” of the leading lawyers for corporate/M&A in Switzerland. Best Lawyers awarded him Lawyer of the Year 2016 in corporate in the Zurich area. He is listed among the top 30 corporate governance practitioners in the world by Expertguides.

In the Bilanz, a Swiss economy journal, Rolf Watter has been listed as one of the two most influential lawyers in Switzerland since 2009. Rolf Watter won the ILO Client Choice Award Switzerland in the category M&A (2016 and 2018) and capital markets (2014).

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Awards won by Rolf Watter

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