And the Golden Tombstone goes to …

Contact: Brenon Daly

In addition to asking corporate development executives in our annual survey to look ahead and predict M&A activity and valuations in the coming year, we also asked them to look back and tell us which deal of the previous year they thought was the most significant. The winner for 2010? Intel’s $7.7bn purchase of McAfee, an unexpected transaction that landed the largest stand-alone security company inside the dominant supplier of microprocessors. At nearly twice the value of the previous largest security deal, it’s a risky bet that security will become another integral consideration around silicon, along with power consumption and performance.

The landmark Intel-McAfee pairing barely edged out Hewlett-Packard’s contested acquisition of high-end storage vendor 3PAR in the voting by corporate development executives for the Golden Tombstone for the top deal of the year. Past winners of the highly coveted award include Oracle-Sun Microsystems (2009), HP-EDS (2008) and Citrix-XenSource (2007).

We suspect that the competition for next year’s Golden Tombstone may be even more intense, at least according to one indication in our survey. (See our full report on the survey.) When we asked corporate development executives about how likely they were to do ‘transformative acquisitions,’ more than half (52%) said they planned to do one of these risky, bet-the-company kind of transactions. In our 2009 survey, just one out of five respondents said that.