There are increasing signs that this puny little recovery of ours is gaining strength, sitting up, and looking with interest at the nurses. Most pertinent is the current unfriendly pursuit of sweet little Cadbury by those aggressive cheese movers, Kraft.
Do you know how long it’s been since a rapacious, unfriendly takeover has been mounted? I can’t think of the last one that caught my notice. Its existence signals a certain kind of belligerent confidence that can only take place in a healthy capitalist economy. It shows that the big machine that actually runs this place is feeling its oats.
In order to mount an unfriendly takeover, phalanxes of lawyers, bankers, consultants and executives must line up, confer, and pile up billable hours in pursuit of a goal that almost always ends in one kind of disaster or another. As has been demonstrated by thousands of years of evidence — beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire and extending all the way to the collapse of assorted 20th-century conglomerates, most takeovers don’t work. The only ones that have a shot at success happen when two organizations decide they truly can’t live without each other. Even then, small life forms and most of the underbrush gets trampled.
A hostile takeover is even less fun, except for the upper tier of capital and a small cadre of visionaries inside the conquering army. But let’s not be party poopers. Where there is no M&A activity of this kind, all we have is day to day business grinding along without dreams of glory. Haven’t we had just about enough of that?
So… go Kraft! And bring on the next wave of irrational enthusiasm for deals that make all kinds of strategic sense! If destructive mergers make a comeback, can new investment instruments be far behind?