Paine co-founding lawyer joins MoFo amid agtech and sustainability push

Mitchell Presser says ongoing consolidation of supply chains and agriculture-focused technologies is likely to drive deal activity in the years to come.

Paine & Partners founding partner Mitchell Presser has joined global law firm Morrison and Foerster as partner, in a position that will draw on his experience as a food and agriculture-focused lawyer and investor.

“I’m sort of a natural first call for a lot of private equity investors who are thinking about the space and maybe haven’t invested as much or as often,” Presser told Agri Investor soon after his hire was announced in mid-April. “That is constantly increasing, there are new funds popping up; investors all over the place are really focused on the space.”

After five years as a partner with law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, New York-based Presser joined MoFo as a partner in its practices devoted to mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments and buyouts. His LinkedIn profile shows that prior to joining Freshfields in 2014, Presser spent about eight years as a partner at Paine & Partners, an agribusiness-focused firm rebranded to Paine Schwartz Partners in 2017.

According to MoFo’s statement, Presser’s work during the years since leaving Paine has included advising the firm on its acquisitions of Wawona Packing, Food Chain ID and Suba Seeds, among others. Presser also advised Paine on its sale of Icicle Seafoods to Cooke Seafood and worked with other clients in sectors including sports, entertainment, professional services and asset management, according to the statement.

MoFo already has a team dedicated to agtech and food that offers clients advice on matters including Food and Drug Administration labeling, intellectual property and finance through distinct units focused on soil and crop technologies, precision ag and food.

He joins the firm at a time when agriculture has come to play a prominent role within its established focus on sustainability, climate and impact investing, MoFo partner Susan Mac Cormac told Agri Investor. In addition to looking for deals, she explained, many firms have worked with MoFo to create fund structures and sustainability metrics that can help raise capital from pension funds, endowments and foundations that are increasingly interested in ag.

Presser’s position includes responsibilities across San Francisco headquartered MoFo’s broader corporate M&A group and a role as co-chair of the firm’s Global Corporate Department.

Within ag, Presser said deal activity during the years to come will likely be driven by the need for consolidation – both of the varied technologies that aim to enhance efficiency at the producer level and in the long supply chains that bring commodities to market.

“There are so many participants along the way taking very small pieces and not always adding the most value,” he said.

“Over time – and it may not be even that much time – we’re going to see accelerated consolidation in the supply chain that will be a real driver of activity. Especially now, with challenges in the economy, food has remained strong, but commodity prices are low and everyone is going to need to get financially stronger, so I think we’ll continue to see a lot of vertical consolidation.”