2007-02-22

Acquisitions and firm growth: creating Unilever's ice cream and tea business
Geoffrey Jones; Peter Miskell
Business History, 49 (1), January 2007

"The role of acquisitions has been widely discussed in management literature. There is considerable evidence that many acquisitions fail, often because of post-acquisition problems. More recently business historians have examined their role in the restructuring of the British, American and other economies after World War Two. Yet the historical and management literatures have been poorly integrated. This article seeks to address some of the issues raised in the management literature by contributing a longitudinal case study of the use of acquisitions by Unilever to build the world's largest ice cream and tea businesses. The study supports recent resource-based theory which argues that complementary rather than related acquisitions add value. It identifies the importance of local knowledge as a key complementary asset. It also identifies reasons why Unilever was able to integrate acquisitions quite successfully, including clear strategic intent and the fact that employee resistance was reduced because most acquisitions were agreed. Finally Unilever could take a long-term view because of its size, and relative unconcern for shareholder interests before the 1980s."

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