David Lax

DAVID LAX, Managing Principal and co-founder of Lax Sebenius LLC, is considered one of the world’s foremost advisors in complex or high stakes negotiations. Dr. Lax advises on negotiations ranging from commercial contracts, joint ventures, and strategic alliances to large mergers and acquisitions in a wide range of industries as well as negotiations with governments.

After leaving the Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty and working as an investment banker at a firm specializing in the restructuring of firms in highly unionized industries and then for five years in the direct equity investment operation of a wealthy family, where he was involved in transactions including venture capital, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, joint ventures, privatizations, and financings, Lax began advising companies and governments in complex negotiations and was appointed Distinguished Fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project. He currently co-teaches a week-long executive course at Harvard entitled Secrets of Successful Deal-Making with HBS Professor Guhan Subramanian.

Dr. Lax and Professor James Sebenius of HBS are the authors of 3D Negotiation (Harvard Business School Press, 2006) as well as The Manager as Negotiator. Harvard Business Review articles include “Deal-Making 2.0,” “Negotiating the Spirit of a Deal” and “3D Negotiation.” With Sebenius, Dr. Lax co-founded and co-taught in HBS’s executive education course on Strategic Negotiation.Dr. Lax advises on a wide variety of corporate and commercial negotiations. Representative engagements include:

  • Negotiating with his colleague William Ury on behalf of a Brazilian billionaire to complete the sale of his company to a French company Casino in a dispute/transaction that the Financial Times described as “one of the biggest cross-continental boardroom showdowns in history;”
  • Advising Guinness on negotiating with Bernard Arnault of LVMH who was seeking to block the $30 billion merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo – the combined market capitalization of Guinness and Grand Met increased by 10% upon a deal with LVMH;
  • Advising a consumer products company on a divestiture, raising the sale price from client’s optimistic estimate of $10MM to a deal valued at $45MM;
  • Helping a company save an estimated $100MM in a four year $500MM agreement with one of its lead suppliers; helping a client develop and implement strategies to open up an industry dominated by several quasi-monopolistic suppliers;
  • Assisting in the settlement of a number of lawsuits with settlements in excess of $2 billion, including negotiating directly on behalf of a small company Arenda a sizeable settlement with Microsoft to conclude 10 years of litigation;
  • Helping a client develop and execute a strategy for maintaining and enhancing its business in response to the election of a generally anti-business, socialist government – the client’s share price increased by 25% upon the announcement of the deal on which we advised; and
  • Advising an international oil company on negotiations with host governments involving exploration and development, on joint ventures with state oil companies, with local partners, and on divestitures of assets.

Lax has worked with corporate clients including American Express, Bupa, Diageo, Grupo Pao Azucar, Infineon, Intel, KPMG, Lufthansa, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Raytheon, Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Chartered Bank, Telstra, TransAlta, and Verizon Wireless. He has also worked on behalf of governments including Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United States.

He additionally participates in pro bono projects and played a role in the negotiations to end the civil war in Nepal. He led a project funded by the Madison Initiative to help Republicans and Democrats negotiate deals across party lines in the national security area. At least thirteen separate bills passed as a result of this effort.

Educated at Princeton, Stanford and Harvard, he holds a doctorate in statistics from Harvard. Dr. Lax helped start two investment management companies and served on the boards of several privately held companies, and currently serves on the board of The Abraham Path. He is also co-founder and Chief Negotiation Officer at Riva HQ, a venture-backed startup working to help end the ‘negotiation gap’ by giving young job-seekers the skills they need to negotiate job offers effectively.