The number and size of corporate mergers and acquisitions continues to boom. The business press carries the stories of how these potential transactions could reshape markets and add value to the acquiring firm. Regardless of the enthusiasm and hype, the facts are that many of these acquisitions will not meet stated expectations, and in fact will destroy value. Further, some of these deals can be disastrous for the business. The risk is that massive shareholder destruction will occur as businesses falter; customers become disgusted and employees are dislocated. It is interesting to note that often when transactions are announced, shareholder price and value for the seller increases, while the opposite happens for the acquirers. Investors are aware of the risks of value destruction for the acquiring firm.
Creating value is not mysterious and doesn't require the proverbial “rocket scientist” to figure out. The actions needed to create value rather than destroying value are straightforward. Yet, for a variety of reasons management teams execute these actions poorly or ignore them all together. Why? First the obvious, virtually all of the reasons for the value destruction involve people. In the passion and pressure of getting a deal done, managers forget about their people. The arrogant assumption is that people will be excited about the transaction and will “fall in line”. Often those assumptions are wrong. We call this the Conundrum of People in M&A.
This conundrum of people is where many acquisitions go off the rails. This includes dynamics during the negotiations as well as execution post-acquisition. Let’s look further at the causes: