Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 by bobmorris

Cross-Border M&ACross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions
Scott C. Whitaker
John Wiley & Sons (April 2016)

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker

I cannot recall a prior time when the global marketplace was more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it is today. This is especially true of cross-border mergers and acquisitions. Drucker’s comment reminds us of an under-appreciated skill that is even more important when several different languages are involved.

Four years ago, I read and reviewed Scott Whitaker’s classic, Mergers & Acquisitions Integration Handbook: Helping Companies Realize the Full Value of Acquisitions, also published by John Wiley & Sons. Now we have a companion volume in which he and ten eminent contributors have, in my opinion, created another classic work, perhaps (at least for now) a definitive primary source.

The best business books offer information, insights, and counsel that are driven by real-world experience and that is certainly true of the material in this volume. Each of the seventeen chapters focuses on key issues that are involved when planning for and then completing cross-border mergers and acquisitions. As Jim O’Toole notes in Leading Change, the strongest resistance to change is the result of what he so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of customer.” This resistance is even stronger when it is multi-national in nature and extent. It is noteworthy that Whitaker’s collaborators are from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan (2), Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Only Stefan Hofmayer and Whitaker are from the United States. All have wide and deep experience with multi-national integration initiatives.

With regard to the material, it is carefully organized within seventeen chapters, with a focus on the most significant dos and don’ts.

Part One (Chapters 1-5): Insights into the overall dynamics of the global M&A environment, including perspectives on region- and country-specific trends and nuances

Part Two (Chapters 6-8): A rigorous examination of how leadership and culture influence (for better or worse) cross border M&As

Part Three (Chapters 9-16): The reader is provided with an abundance of detail with regard to the more tactical, day-to-day elements of cross-border integration, accompanied by analysis of country-specific nuances that can (and usually) have impact on planning and execution details

Part Four (Chapter17 & 18): Here is a wealth of insights into several unique transaction scenarios, illusions, delusions, and situations

Long ago during dinner with a prominent expert in M&A, I asked him about a major acquisition he was then supervising. “How’s it going?” I asked. Long, thoughtful pause. “It’s like being blindfold, walking through a minefield juggling hand grenades, during an especially violent electrical storm.”

Disclaimer: I have never been directly involved in M&As but his vivid description gave me at least a sense of why most M&As either fail or fall far short of original (probably overcooked) expectations.

It is noteworthy that most of the information, insights, and counsel that Scott C. Whitaker and his colleagues provide — after appropriate but probably minor modification — can also be of substantial value to business leaders in companies that may not be actively involved in cross-border mergers and acquisitions but are actively involved in cross-border partnerships and strategic alliances. I commend the collaborators on what I consider to be a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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