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The Business of Shark Week

This week the Discovery Channel dedicates an entire week of programming to sharks – a tradition that dates back to 1987, when the cable TV channel was experimenting with ways to attract viewers in the summer. Thus, Shark Week was born.

Yet despite the fear so often instilled by sharks, there can be no denying the power, grace and commanding presence these creatures have. That got us thinking about the sharks of the business world: namely those companies with an overwhelming presence that we can’t help but pay attention to.

The shark-in-business analogy suggests that – just like in the ocean – the business world is made up of a hierarchy of big and little fish, and that the little fish sometimes become the food of the bigger fish.

In the last 10 years alone we have experienced M&A deals worth as much as $68 million, $74 million and $165 million respectively. 2001’s merger of AOL/Time Warner, for instance, gave rise to the world’s second largest entertainment conglomerate ever.

Of course we all know how that turned out, with the merger now viewed as one of the most significant failures of corporate activity in modern times. So what’s really critical in managing a successful M&A process?

2009 saw Schering-Plough’s mega-merger with Merck and in a recent interview with, Former CEO Fred Hassan explained this process and offered lessons in handling such a gigantic merger.

“Be careful,” he offers. “Look at the strategic fit first. Don’t get enamored by the attraction of the target company; but ask if it fits with the next stage of your strategy.”

Sharks in business, or just king of the ocean? Find out more about managing through M&A’s at

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