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Morris J. Kramer; helped set off a wave of mergers

NEW YORK — Morris J. Kramer, who as a longtime partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom helped revolutionize the mergers and acquisitions business, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 71.

The cause was complications of prostate cancer, his son Oliver said.

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In the 1970s, Mr. Kramer was one of four deal advisers at Skadden who worked under Joseph H. Flom, the pioneering corporate lawyer. They played a leading role in transforming Skadden from a small, scrappy practice into one of the world’s leading law firms.

Mr. Kramer and his colleagues made their mark by taking on assignments that New York’s establishment lawyers had long considered declasse: advising corporations in hostile takeover bids and proxy battles for the control of other public companies.

In 1973, Mr. Kramer was an architect of a hostile bid by the International Nickel Co. of Canada for ESB Inc., a takeover battle that is said to have set off the tidal wave of acquisitions over the next two decades.

During the 1980s, he served as an influential lawyer for Bruce Wasserstein and Joseph Perella at First Boston, helping to reshape the established order on Wall Street. When media mogul Ted Turner sold Turner Broadcasting System to Time Warner for about $7.5 billion in 1995, he retained Mr. Kramer to advise him.

Mr. Kramer, a Brooklyn native who graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, loved what he referred to as the ‘‘brain surgery’’ of a deal, mastering the arcana of a transaction that could give his client an edge in negotiations or before a judge when merger disputes ended up in court.

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