M&A – the good, the bad, the ‘value creating’ and the ugly

I’m posting my submission below, to give an idea of who the speakers are and what one could expect.

Best idea presented:

Range of speakers – “CEOs, watch your egos.”

We saw this repeatedly – bad deals because CEOs took too much into their own hands. Put bluntly, the most dangerous outcome for a business is to have a CEO who has lost his common sense.

If a class of MBA candidates (and perhaps the general public at times) can hear about a deal and know immediately that this will not go well, the CEO lost her head. The Belgacom case in relation to Telindus and the Dexia fiasco were the most useful warnings.

Easy enough to dismiss the CEOs in these cases as incompetent. Unfortunately, that was likely not the truth. These were competent people who lost their common sense under the weight of responsibility, entitlement and power which came with their positions. Each one of us has a number – the number of people who must simultaneously say to us “you’re right” to shut down our common sense.

Refreshingly, we saw also heard from the CEO of Ter Beke, Marc Hofman, to demonstrate the principles of acquisition management, from the portfolio to the integration phase. His warning to beware of pride, ego, or the thrill of the chase carried a lot of credibility, given his experience. His experience with governance structures to keep the CEO grounded was also helpful.

While we’re hearing a lot about humility as well, I still think it is more about being sensible, and surrounding yourself with sensible people rather than some sort of personality trait. Businesses need governance, which should be provided by the Board of Directors, though it is rarely seen. I was glad to have Mr. Hofman provide us with a real example in which governance exists and seems to be working.