Energy Transfer Equity (ETE.N) won a court ruling on June 24 that would allow the pipeline operator to walk away from its more than $20 billion takeover of rival Williams Cos Inc (WMB.N), a deal Energy Transfer agreed to in September, but soured on in January. A Delaware judge ruled that Energy Transfer, or ETE, had not breached the merger agreement when it cited in March a tax problem that would prevent the deal from closing and would allow ETE to walk away without penalty. Williams said in a brief filed earlier this week that it would appeal any ruling in favor of ETE. The two companies sued each other in Delaware in May after months of heated disagreement. ETE has been trying for months to back out of a deal that has become less attractive in the wake of oil price fluctuations and a fall in the company's shares. Kelcy Warren, the billionaire chief executive of Energy Transfer, set his sights on Williams last year to transform his business into one of the world's biggest pipeline networks, launching an unsolicited bid last June and reaching a deal in late September that was then worth $33 billion. The timing was poor. Oil and gas prices dropped significantly after it was announced, the companies' shares fell sharply and investors started to worry that the $6 billion cash portion of the deal would saddle ETE with too much debt. ETE made it clear that it no longer believed the deal was attractive. It slashed estimates for expected cost savings and said it would likely have to cut distributions to shareholders entirely next year if it had to complete the deal. It also said it would have to cut jobs substantially in Williams' home state of Oklahoma. The company also launched a convertible share offering that effectively shields Warren and other top ETE shareholders from a distribution cut.