Post-acquisition decapitation

The write-offs from wrong-headed acquisitions just keep coming. And we don’t mean just financial write-offs. Instead, we’re referring to the practice of a company’s board ‘writing off’ the executives who crafted a deal. This week’s high-profile example came when Alcatel-Lucent finally tossed overboard the two architects of ‘la grande fusion.’ Since that deal was announced in April 2006, the combination has incinerated some $20bn over shareholder value, leaving the telco equipment vendor with a market capitalization of just $13.6bn. (That’s less than the sales the company posted in 2007.) That two-year performance finally got Serge Tchuruk, the company’s chairman who represents the Alcatel side of the combination, and Patricia Russo, the Lucent legacy, shown the door.

This house-cleaning at Acaltel-Lucent comes just two weeks after AMD kicked Hector Ruiz upstairs. In virtually the same breath that AMD announced Ruiz would be relieved of his CEO post but continue as chairman, the company said it will divest much of the business it picked up with its $5.4bn purchase of graphics chip maker ATI Technologies. Announcing the deal two years ago, Ruiz said his combination offered ‘limitless’ possibilities for innovation. Instead, the future of AMD looks rather limited, in large part because of the $2.5bn it borrowed to cover its disastrous purchase of ATI. AMD’s total debt stands at $5bn, compared with just $1.6bn in cash.

Meanwhile, a chief executive who we’ve always thought must be on the hot-seat for a misguided acquisition appears to have gotten a bit of a reprieve this week. Symantec CEO John Thompson said Wednesday that fiscal first-quarter sales of its backup products outpaced overall revenue growth. That reverses the recent weakness in the company’s storage offering, which Symantec acquired with its $13.5bn purchase of Veritas in December 2004. Wall Street applauded the company’s report, with shares up about 10% since Wednesday. Still, Thompson has yet to recognize much value from the three-and-half-year-old purchase of Veritas. Symantec shares, which changed hands at $21.74 midday on Friday, are still about $6 below where they were when the company picked up Veritas. Perhaps that goes some distance to explaining the loose rumors this week that something big – possibly the much-discussed divestiture of the storage business or even an outright sale of the company – was brewing at Symantec.

Leading the acquisition

Deal Stock performance since deal Status of acquiring company CEO since deal
Symantec-Veritas, Dec. 2004 Down 35% John Thompson, CEO since April 1999, continues to serve
Alcatel-Lucent, April 2006 Down 61% CEO Russo and chairman Tchuruk ousted this week
AMD-ATI, July 2006 Down 77% Long-time CEO Hector Ruiz replaced in mid-July
Secure Computing-CipherTrust, July 2006 Down 51% Chairman and CEO John McNulty replaced in April

Source: Company reports, The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

M&A cycles in France

 Our colleague Matt Aslett recently hit on an incredibly creative and entertaining series of posting on our sister blog CAOS Theory pegged to Euro 2008. He profiled the open source projects and policies in the 16 countries that took part in that soccer (errr, football) tournament. (A Brit, Aslett found himself with a fair amount of free time last month since his country didn’t qualify for the European championships.) Not only did Aslett review all the open source goings-on in the respective countries, he even had them square off against one another, as if they were on the soccer field (errr, football pitch). Eventually, he crowned France this year’s Open Source Champion.

We here at Inorganic Growth are decidedly less creative and industrious than our colleagues over at CAOS Theory. So, with that as back-drop, we try our own entry pegged to a major three-week sporting event in Europe: The Tour de France. The 2170-mile counter-clockwise trip around the country starts on Saturday in wind-swept Brittany. For the first time in 40 years, the Tour opens with a normal road stage rather than a ceremonial prologue. (It’s also the first time in about a decade that the defending champion will not be at the start, as cycling continues its lopsided fight against dopers and other cheats.)

When we punched up the numbers for French M&A in recent years, we have to say we were a bit shocked by how thin the peloton of deals has become recently. In the first half of 2008, we saw just 47 deals involving either French buyers or sellers, with total spending of just $1.2bn. That compares to 62 deals worth $7.8bn in the same period last year and 68 deals worth $18.4bn in the first half of 2006.

With that in mind, we decided not to award a yellow jersey, signifying a clear leader. Instead, we’ll got to the other end of the results and hand out an award for the ‘lanterne rouge’ – the designation for the last-place Tour de France rider. The winner of the ‘anti Yellow Jersey’: Alcatel’s $13.4bn purchase of Lucent. We put this deal, inked in April 2006, on top of the podium because the combination has destroyed more than $22bn of shareholder value in just two years. Felicitations, Alcatel-Lucent.

French deal flow


Deal volume

Deal value

Jan.-June 2006



Jan.-June 2007



Jan.-June 2008




Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase