New York — They are the big dogs of modern mergers and acquisitions (M&A) — rapacious deal makers that have devoured mighty corporations, bankrolled young disrupters, and up-ended entire industries. And they’re not looking so tough anymore.

Since 2014, when the latest wave of M&A began to build, three names have inspired fear and envy in the M&A world. In doing so, each has been totemic of a particular vogue in the capital markets:..

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