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Lessons I Learned From Mergers and Acquisitions

Aaron McHugh

My wife was four months pregnant the first time I interviewed to keep my job. I turned up at 8 am for our Monday morning meeting and twenty of us were introduced to the three suits standing against the wall. “Meet the new owners. We’ve been sold. Each of you will be interviewing to keep your job. Not everyone will be here by Wednesday”.

I learned that when you produce revenue for a living you are valuable to new owners.

Acquisition #2: We sold software that converted a telephone signal into the sound you could listen to from your computer-picture WebEx but in 1999. Our VC money bought us a slushy machine, a Golden Tee Golf game and bring your dog to work day. The new owners came for a tour of our vacant cube farm after the layoff. I remember being advised, “Don’t sell anything right now until we figure out if we’re going to be in business.”

I learned that adding new money couldn’t save a dying company. Sometimes companies should die.

Acquisition #3: I thought television was a safe bet. Over lunch, my bosses pitched me on leading a new digital initiative driven by our new owners. At first, it sounded like a compliment, “You’re perfect to lead this new initiative”. It became clear to me that their strategy was for me to be the fall guy when it went south.

I learned that not every promotion is worthy of accepting.

Failed Acquisition: I helped court a suitor. They liked what they saw, but wanted to move fast or move on. After a lot of peacock feathering, eventually, the suitor called and respectfully withdrew their interest.

I learned those founders who can’t envision what they will do on Monday after they pocket $10 Million is very difficult to negotiate with.