The mergers and acquisitions business is often cyclical, marked by quiet periods followed by periods of intense effort. TransCanada, an energy infrastructure company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, is currently in a busy season, which means long hours for Victoria Marselle, the company’s director of commercial and Canadian regulatory law for energy.
TransCanada recently announced that it is monetizing its US Northeast Power business, which is estimated at roughly $3.7 billion. It is also selling all of its thermal, wind, and hydroelectric business in the Northeast United States in two separate transactions. These major divestitures mean Marselle’s days require focus, adaptability and, quite often, sleep deprivation.
Marselle joined the company in 1999, bringing with her considerable private practice experience as a transactional lawyer. She felt that working as an outside attorney failed to give her a full picture of the companies behind the transactions she was working on approving.
“You work on an IPO or takeover bid, and when it is done you move on to next one,” she says. “There was never an in-depth understanding of how the companies I worked with really operated. I was looking for a position where I could play a more enduring role in one company.”
She discovered that at TransCanada, where, until about a year ago, her primary focus was on acquisitions and divestitures in the company’s pipeline and power businesses in Canada, the United States, and South America, as well as bids for pipeline development projects in Mexico.
“Last year, we transformed our corporate strategy so that counsel is embedded in each business unit,” she says, adding that her role now covers all aspects of the power business, but not pipelines. “My role now is to provide commercial and regulatory support in our power businesses, including acquisition and divestiture activity.”
The sale of the US power business is currently providing much of that regulatory and transactional work, but not all of it.
Marselle also takes part in handling the company’s Canadian power businesses, some of which are undergoing major transformations. Legislative initiatives from various provincial governments—specifically on climate change policy—have “an unprecedented impact” on the company’s business.
“These changes have created a great deal of uncertainty in the industry that we are trying to respond to, making for a fascinating, challenging, and unpredictable work environment,” Marselle says.
Marselle keeps all of these issues in the air by prioritizing and delegating her work. “I am really fortunate to work with a remarkably capable and energetic group of lawyers,” she says. “My management style is very hands off. I need to be up to speed on a file, but I don’t like to micromanage.”
Staying ahead of the curve also helps. Marselle says she tries to anticipate the direction a file might go and stay a step ahead of it. This means anticipating the documents and briefing materials that will be needed down the line and preparing them in advance. “I also stay up late,” Marselle says with a laugh, although she continues that this current busy period will eventually slow down. “Usually, there is a bit of downtime after big transactions like this.”
In that downtime, Marselle will be able to fully absorb all the restructuring done at her company and within the legal department this past year.
“We need time to process these changes and to get a line on our corporate goals moving forward,” Marselle explains. “Personally, I’ve been in this new role for just a year, and it has been a year of great change for the company, generally, and the power group in particular. I would welcome a bit of stability and want to continue in a more organized manner to meet the new opportunities and challenges this role and the industry have
For now, she tries to relax through exercise and spending time with family and friends.
“But I could use a bit more sleep, too,” Marselle says.