Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2008

Can the Virtuous Mouse and the Wealthy Elephant Live Happily Ever After?

by James E. Austin and Herman B. Leonard

Abstract

What happens when small iconic socially-oriented businesses are acquired by large corporations? Such mergers create significant opportunities for creating both business value and substantially expanded social value, but also pose unusually difficult challenges because the merging entities are often strikingly different in philosophy and operating styles as well as in scale. We examine three examples -- Ben and Jerry's acquisition by Unilever, Stonyfield Farm by Groupe Danone, and Tom's of Maine by Colgate -- to ascertain what is distinctive about the merger process and to analyze the elements critical to success. We develop suggestions about how other companies considering similar arrangements might best manage the process of courtship, developing agreements, and executing effectively within the newly merged entities.

Keywords: Mergers and Acquisitions; Management Style; Agreements and Arrangements; Social Enterprise; Social Issues;

Citation:

Austin, James E., and Herman B. Leonard. "Can the Virtuous Mouse and the Wealthy Elephant Live Happily Ever After?" Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-047, September 2008.