2021 was a roller coaster of a year filled with some truly remarkable events. From the sheer volume and exuberance of the first quarter to the 55+ law firms banding together to reject a frivolous lawsuit, could anyone say they remember a wilder year than 2021? And through it all there were some noteworthy standouts in the SPAC ecosystem. As such, this is the second annual SPACInsider Awards where we honor the players that stood out in a very crowded field.
In looking back over 2021, there were 613 IPOs priced, 197 combinations that held shareholder votes, 76 underwriters and 90 law firms. With so many choices this year, it was very challenging narrowing the categories down to just one winner each. To make things even more difficult, the SPAC market in the first quarter looked drastically different that in fourth, so evaluating combinations that spanned a variety of conditions proved especially tricky.
Nonetheless, as we close out 2021, there were some clear winners. The below highlights deals, teams, sponsors, bankers and lawyers we have chosen as standouts in a market crowded with notable participants. However, it should be said that we wanted to give many more awards for each category since so many are worthy. But alas, we had to choose just one. These were our final selections.
The Churchill IV/Lucid Motors combination, for a variety of reasons, won our Deal of the Year award as best SPAC combination of 2021. It is easily the most recognizable SPAC combination, having captured the attention of both retail and institutional investors as well as having been in the news repeatedly throughout the first half of the year. But, it is also the best performing 2021 de-SPAC with a current share price of $38.05. No easy feat in asset class rife with electric vehicle deals. However, there was an unprecedented amount of interest in this deal happening before it was actually even a deal. In fact, anticipation was so high that CCIV’s share price trade to $65 before this deal was even announced. Nevertheless, this deal still managed to deliver and the Lucid Air was just named 2022’s MotorTrend Car of the Year. Between Lucid and Rivian, Tesla actually has some competition now in the space. For those reasons, it was a unanimous decision to call the CCIV/Lucid SPAC Combination 2021’s Deal of the Year. Well Done.
MELI Kaszek Pioneer Corp. (Nasdaq: MEKA)
This was a tough category given that 2021 has had such a disparate four quarters, the first quarter’s environment being so drastically different than the fourth quarter. After all, it’s much harder to outperform in a down market. For that reason, MELI Kaszek Pioneer Corp’s IPO is a standout this year and gets top spot as Best IPO of 2021. MELI Kaszek priced it’s IPO on September 29, in one of the most difficult periods for IPOs in recent memory. At that time, the vast majority of deals pricing needed to include Anchor Investors and over-funded trusts in order to sell the IPO. And yet, MELI Kaszek, sponsored by the founders and key members of Mercado Libre, Latin America’s most valuable tech company, managed to price its IPO as a $287.5M warrantless SPAC. There were 36 warrantless SPACs in all of 2021, but only four of them came in the second half of the year. MELI Kaszek’s was the last one. Plus, it traded as high as $12.87 on it’s first day of trading before closing at $11.15. That’s a difficult feat even in the best of circumstances. However, the MELI Kaszek team had an outstanding performance under some of the worst IPO conditions we’ve seen. For these reasons, MELI Kaszek Pioneer Corp. gets the Best SPAC IPO of the Year award.
Like so many of the categories this year, SPACs were blessed with an abundance of good choices. However, as stated previously, we can only pick one. For 2021, we chose the Kensington Capital team as best Sponsor. Kensington made itself known in 2020 with its first transaction with Lithium-metal battery maker, Quantumscape (NYSE:QS), which traded as high as $75 at one point. QS is currently trading at $22.19, but the Kensington team followed up that deal with EV Charger, Wallbox (NYSE: WBX), which is now trading at $16.34. Additionally, across both deals, this team has a current redemption average of just 19.4%. Therefore, we believe Kensington Capital deserves special honors as Best Sponsor in 2021 for its consistency in performance.
This was easily the most difficult category this year. There are a number of different ways to evaluate a bank, not the least of which is volume, but more important in our minds is performance of de-SPACs. With that in mind, we gave top honors to Goldman Sachs as Best Bank of 2021. Goldman had 18 SPACs close their combinations this year with an average redemption rate of 29.6%. In fact, six of their de-SPACs had redemption percentages of less than 0.1% and nine of them (50% of their de-SPACs) had less than 6% redemptions. Goldman has consistently shown their deals to have first-rate combinations, including Vesper Healthcare’s The Beauty Health Company (Nasdaq: SKIN), now trading at $24.16, Switchback Energy’s ChargePoint (NYSE: CHPT), trading at $19.05, dMY Technology III’s IonQ (NYSE: IONQ, trading at $16.70, and Altimar’s Blue Owl (NYSE: OWL), trading at $14.91. However, it should be noted that this was an extremely close category and as such, both Deutsche Bank and UBS had notable performances as well in 2021.
BEST LAW FIRM
Kirkland & Ellis
2021 was a year where the lawyers flexed their muscles. When litigation arose this summer claiming SPACs violated the Investment Act of 1940, over 55 law firms united to declare these lawsuits were “without merit”. However, getting lawyers to agree on anything is a feat unto itself, but Kirkland & Ellis took the mantle of “law firm running point” on the effort, helping to organize a multitude of legal voices. But, Kirkland and Ellis also finished 2021 in the number two spot for the Legal Underwriting League Tables, just behind Ellenoff Grossman & Schole, which ranked #1 based on deal volume. In total, K&E represented 106 SPACs in 2021, 77 as Issuer’s Counsel and 29 and Underwriter’s Counsel for $33.8 billion in gross proceeds raised. On the de-SPAC side, K&E ranked #1 for the year representing 49 de-SPACs. For all of these reasons combined, we named Kirkland & Ellis Best Law firm in 2021.
Lastly, we have the Investor’s Choice awards. We ran a poll in our newsletter as an opportunity to let the SPAC community vote themselves. The results are below.
BEST IPO: Gores Guggenheim
BEST UNDERWRITER: Citigroup
BEST LAW FIRM: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
BEST SPONSOR: Social Capital
DE-SPAC DEAL OF THE YEAR: Lucid Motors