18 Best Books on Mergers and Acquisitions

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What are the best books on mergers and acquisitions?

This list does not attempt to compile every book that has ever been written on the subject. The selection of these books will give the reader a well-rounded picture of a common theme among mergers and acquisitions.

During the 80s the corporate world witnesses an enormous impact on what mergers can do. The statistics and evidence are quite clear when it comes to the success of a merger and acquisition. Most do not succeed as promised to the investor. As you examine the list, you will identify that most authors try to stir you away from the pitfalls and shortcomings of mergers and acquisitions. However, knowledge is the key to success with any endeavor and investment.

In this article, we will examine the best books on mergers and acquisitions, a brief explanation of the book, a recommendation of who the book is written for, and a few quotes from each book.

Best Books on Mergers and Acquisitions: The List

1. Bloodsport
2. Barbarians at the Gate
3. Big Deal: 2000 and Beyond
4. Applied Mergers and Acquisitions
5. Mergers
6. Operations Due Diligence
7. Middle Market M&A 
8. Intelligent M&A 
9. Mergers
10. Reverse Mergers
11. Due Diligence for Global Deal Making
12. Buyout
13. The Synergy Trap
14. The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions
15. Let’s Buy a Company
16. The Human Side of M&A
17. Inside Cisco
18. Valuation

1 – Bloodsport | by Robert Teitelman

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Business journalist Robert Teitelman writes on the account of the 1980s, which during this time witnessed some of the biggest mergers, hostile takeovers, and disruptive buyouts. He reports on how big “deal took” corporate governance from a “stakeholder model” to a “shareholder model.” That is, from how managers ran businesses that benefited the customers, employees, the community (stakeholder model) to how managers ran businesses where only stock owner profits mattered (shareholder model). Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Shrewd Ideologues, and Brawling Lawyers Topples the Corporate Establishment is highly recommended to understand the takeover history in the 1980s, its recommended to business students of history and those who are in the merger and acquisition field.

Quotes from the Book

“Takeovers are among the most disruptive activities a corporation can engage in – often quite literally a game-changer.”

“M&A every year touches millions: a husband laid off, a friend receiving a buyout, a town devastated by a shuttered factory, or, for that matter, a banker wheeling past in a shiny new Porsche.”

Motivating managers by constant threat of takeovers may produce unforeseen consequences, including a dispirited acceptance of fate or a short-term, self-interested culture of greed.”

“The latter half of the ’80s…saw the collision of seemingly unlimited financing for takeovers and a defensive tool that appeared immovable. Something had to give.”

2 – Barbarians at the Gate | by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar

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Greed, greed, and more greed. Journalists John Helyar and Bryan Burrough takes on a journey of the deal of the decade in the 1980s. Nabisco’s $25 billion leveraged buyouts (LBO) was a huge money grab by CEO Ross Johnson and the financier Henry Kravis. Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco is recommended to those who seek out a page-turning epic in this deal.

Quotes from the Book

“LBOs became a viable alternative in every takeover situation…because they…promise[ed] operating autonomy and vast riches.”

“The next generation of corporate swashbucklers, like Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco and Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom, further evolved a concept Johnson pioneered: the CEO as noncompany man.”

“Johnson’s problem was that he insisted on thinking in terms of the real world, real money, real investments.”

“The deal went so badly for KKR and was attacked so vehemently by politicians that LBO firms pulled in their horns and eschewed mega-deals for years thereafter.”

3 – Big Deal: 2000 and Beyond | by Bruce Wasserstein

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Author Bruce Wasserstein is a tycoon giant, not only studied the field but lived it. He is the leader of his own firm at First Boston who played an enormous role in many corporate mergers. Big Deal: 2000 and Beyond may serve better as a reference book, due to its size and encyclopedic nature. The books examine the whys and the hows of many of history’s top deals. He further examines whether mergers & acquisitions either depress or enhances shareholder value. This book is recommended for its historical perspective on Wall Street’s largest deals and the breakdown of how they work.

Quotes from the Book

 “Stripping away the technical and legal jargon, the leveraged acquisition process is quite simple – the acquisition of a company is financed largely with borrowed money.”

“Just as some companies keep getting bigger, others shed their skin and became smaller. The imperative toward focus and simplicity is as strong as that for size.”

“Scale matters, and bigger seems to mean better to most managers. Maybe it’s critical mass, or technology and globalization, but there is a natural imperative towards scale.”

“The 1980s were distinguished by three distinct trends: first, strategic purchases by corporate buyers; second, going-private transactions funded by financial buyers; and third, the move by foreign multinationals into the U.S. merger market.”

4 – Applied Mergers and Acquisitions | by Robert F. Bruner

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Author Robert F. Bruner is a leading authority on mergers and acquisitions. In Applied Mergers and Acquisitions, any student or executive will have a solid and indispensable introduction to the subject matter. Bruner addresses with mergers and acquisitions with an academic and scholarly objective with practical realities.

Quotes from the Book

 “So here’s the problem: How do you succeed at an activity in which you must participate and in which the odds of great success are slim?”

“To M&A professionals, I would advise patience and continued efforts to observe, learn and exercise the best practices.”

5 – Mergers, Acquisitions, and Corporate Restructurings | by Patrick A. Gaughan

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Author Patrick Gaughan focuses on how to avoid and undo bad deals. He also examines the alternatives of what to consider before the acquisition. Many books on mergers and acquisitions show you how to conduct them. Gaughan’s experiences a different approach knowing that the likelihood is high considering that most mergers and acquisitions fail. Mergers, Acquisitions, and Corporate Restructurings are recommended for lawyers, executives or anyone else who wants to improve their chances in a successful merger and acquisition.

Quotes from the Book

If several corporations had made certain prominent merger errors, then the rest of the corporate world should learn from such mistakes and not repeat them. This seems not to be the case.”

“Even those companies that have demonstrated a special prowess for doing successful diversifying deals also do big flops as well.”

“If a potential bidder is in one industry and is considering making an investment in another, the bidder’s own shareholders can easily make such an investment at relatively low costs.”

“Targets tend to do well in takeovers because in order to take over a company, a bidder usually has to pay a premium for control of the company. Bidders, however, may not fare as well.”

6 – Operations Due Diligence | by James F. Grebey

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Consultant James F. Grebey takes a look into the infrastructure and operations of an organization, whether you are a business executive trying to increase the profitability and future of your firm or evaluating the potential acquisition of it. Grebey dives into an extensive checklist of 400 questions that will help investors and managers with a thorough evaluation. The information is organized in a coherent and uniform manner without much jargon, that strictly focuses on user-friendly language. Operations Due Diligence: An M&A Guide for Investors and Business is recommended to managers and investors who are responsible for an organization’s viability, and to those employees whose organizations are considering and going through the process.

Quotes from the Book

 “The businesses worth investing in are the sustainable businesses that are revenue based, product driven and supported by an infrastructure that has been designed to sustain the business’s long-term growth.”

“A true Operations Due Diligence should not be limited to a single operations function. Rather, it should have a broad scope that includes all the operations areas.”

“A business that invests the resources to improve its operations infrastructure will become more efficient, making it more competitive, improving its profits and therefore making it more sustainable.”

“Due diligence is a voyage of discovery.”

7 – Middle Market M&A | by Kenneth H. Marks, Robert T. Slee, Christian W. Blees, and Michael R. Nall

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A team of experts – Kenneth H. Marks, Robert T. Slee, Christian W. Blees and Michael R. Nall – that brings a modern guide on mergers and acquisitions. Middle Market M&A: Handbook for Investment Banking and Business Consulting covers many unique topics, including tax structures, due diligence, and complex valuation issues. The books further examine “soft issues,” the human involvement of M&A. The book is structured and organized well, however, avoiding an academic brain dump but occasionally dives deeper into a topic. This book is recommended for those practitioners who are involved in M&A, and business people alike.

Quotes from the Book

 “Much of what is taught in traditional corporate finance is not easily applied, nor appropriate to apply, to the private capital markets and to many middle-market deals.”

“Keep in mind that valuing a business is a blend of art and science, with a reasonable level of subjectivity.”

“Without a current valuation, it can be very difficult to know what a business is worth, and attempting to transfer a business without this knowledge is usually an exasperating and frustrating experience.”

“An interest may be worth nearly nothing in one world while its value could be tremendous in another. Starting off in the correct world is vital to understanding the value proposition.”

8 – Intelligent M&A | Scott Moeller and Chris Brady

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Authors Chris Brady and Scott Moeller write a unique guide to be smarter on mergers and acquisitions. Not only do they remind you of the things you need to be involved with, but they also help you to avoid problematic situations. Many mergers don’t go as plan, and most actually destroy both companies. M&A is not to take lightly. Intelligent M&A: Navigating the Mergers and Acquisitions Minefield helps you to ensure you are focusing on the right deal, by gathering intelligence, evaluation, and negotiation. This book is recommended for those who want a thoughtful and concise read.

Quotes from the Book

 “By employing sufficient and first-rate intelligence as part of an M&A process, companies are able to achieve a higher degree of commercial success.”

“Merging or acquiring can be a threat to the current shareholders or a great opportunity. The outcome is never preordained.”

“M&A is a means to an end – not just an end in itself. Unfortunately, in many deals the focus is exclusively on completing the deal and not enough attention has been paid to…various organizational and people issues.”

“High business risk should be matched by low financial risk, and vice versa.”

9 – Mergers | David Fubini, Colin Price, and Maurizio Zollo

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Authors Maurizio Zollo, Colin Price, and David Fubini write a short book on a comprehensive investigation, a survey conducting 30 senior managers on the front line around the world. They focus on “healthy” mergers where the merging of two companies satisfy financial goals. Most executives speak of a “healthy merger,” but it rarely happens. Much of the talk is just rhetoric since most mergers fail to meet their goals. This book dives into how executives and managers can avoid this situation of double talk. Mergers: Leadership, Performance, and Corporate Health are recommended for an informed description of the shortcomings of mergers and how to survive them.

Quotes from the Book

“The best integrators have the keenest desire to go beyond conventional performance and achieve mergers that are truly ‘healthy’.”

“Consider the merger as an opportunity to create a merged company that is fundamentally healthier than either of its predecessors.”

“Advances in the senior leadership of mergers have fallen far behind the advances at the integration team level.”

“Getting the ‘small things right’ during the integration requires significant attention at a time when it is hard to spare.”

10 – Reverse Mergers | by David N. Feldman and Steven Dresner

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What does Turner Broadcasting System, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Blockbuster Entertainment, and Occidental Petroleum all have in common? They all gone public through a reverse merger. Just a few years ago, many companies were going public with an IPO, now many companies are locked out of the IPO, and it’s no longer a popular path to take. With reverse mergers, a privately held company can merge with a public company, giving them access to public stock to raise capital. This book is a dry read but acts more like a textbook with technical rules and acronyms. Therefore, Reverse Mergers: And Other Alternatives to Traditional IPOs is recommended for sophisticated, lawyers, accountants, bankers, or anyone who wants all the details of a reverse merger.

Quotes from the Book

 “Companies effecting reverse mergers usually can raise somewhere in the range of $10 million to $25 million, significantly less than initial public offerings, which may raise anywhere from $20 million to $300 million.”

“If everything else in your company was the same, but you had a publicly traded stock, would that be better?”

“Going public solely to raise one round of financing when a company sees no other benefits to being public almost always turns out to be a flawed strategy.”

“Support from Wall Street should be built the old-fashioned way – by earning it.”

11 – Due Diligence for Global Deal Making | by Arthur H. Rosenbloom

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Most mergers and acquisitions will not increase shareholder value. Much like a marriage, the successful statistics should give the wise investor a pause. It may seem that grass is greener on the other side of the fence, rather, border. Sometimes, the riskiest moves are the ones you don’t always make. For this reason, cross-border transactions will be strong, as globalization continues to consolidate and economic barriers come down. However, legal and foreign accounting can be a daunting experience and will need expert guidance. Due Diligence for Global Deal Making: The Definitive Guide to Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions, Joint Ventures, Financings, and Strategic Alliances is recommended for anyone involved in a global deal-making.

Quotes from the Book

 “Like the foundation of a building, due diligence is the key structural support, but not much of it is visible when the building is completed.”

“A good deal is vastly better than a good lawsuit, and given a choice between a good lawsuit and an aborted deal, most savvy buyers would choose the latter.”

“Cross-border tax due diligence for any investor involves a balance between tax compliance review and future tax planning.”

“Sound transactional due diligence is a prerequisite to successful transactions in good times and rising expectations and in bad times when success may be more vital.”

12 – Buyout | Rick Rickertsen and Robert E. Gunther

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Authors Rick Rickertsen and Robert E. Gunther have written just about everything in regards to purchasing a business. They write on financial issues in an understandable and coherent language. Buyout: The Insider’s Guide to Buying Your Own Company is recommended for anyone who is considering purchasing a business.

Quotes from the Book

 “Good managers should be in the driver’s seat, but they are often stuck in the passenger’s seat. It’s time to get behind the wheel.”

“You might imagine the buyout process as a kind of low-altitude manned space mission. Before you leave the ground, you figure out the right trajectory and thrust you need to get on your way.”

“Before you get started, do a gut check. Do you really want to do a buyout? The process is difficult, time-consuming, expensive and frustrating. You’ve got to be prepared to go down many blind alleys, or work on one project for a year and have it crater at the eleventh hour.”

“Most problems occur when managers become greedy and want to put the screws to the owner.”

13 – The Synergy Trap | by Mark L. Sirower

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Author Mark L. Sirower goes into an academic study that challenges the purpose of corporate acquisitions. Understanding that most acquisitions usually devalue the companies. Sirower dives deep into the mathematical analyses of these merger and acquisition problems. There is plenty of data, measurable calculations that back up his assertions. The Synergy Trap is recommended for anyone who is involved in mergers and acquisitions.

Quotes from the Book

 “So many mergers fail to deliver what they promise that there should be a presumption of failure. The burden of proof should be on showing that anything really good is likely to come out of one.” [Warren Hellman]

“Few, if any, corporate resource decisions can change the value of a company as quickly or dramatically as a major acquisition. Yet the change is usually for the worse.”

“Shareholders of acquiring firms routinely lose money right on announcement of acquisitions. They rarely recover their losses. But shareholders of the target firms, who receive substantial premium for their shares, usually gain.”

In management terms, synergy means competing better than anyone ever expected. It means gains in competitive advantage over and above what firms already need to survive in their competitive markets.”

14 – The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions | Timothy J. Galpin and Mark Herndon

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Authors Mark Herndon and Timothy J. Galpin focus on the misunderstood aspects of managing mergers and acquisitions. There’s plenty of case studies, illustration flow charts, and practical advice to apply to real-world challenges. Not all the ideas are new and the authors do not claim them to be, however, they apply the most relevant ideas to mergers and acquisition psychology. Their biggest message is “You must communicate.” The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions: Process Tools to Support M&A Integration at Every Level is recommended to anyone, including the experienced in the mergers and acquisition industry.

Quotes from the Book

 “The first rule of mergers is that there is absolutely no such thing as a merger of equals; one of you is always the big kid on the block.”

Merger integration is like pulling off a bandage: It can be slow and painful, or it can be fast and painful.”

“Given the highly charged emotions and the uncertainty surrounding any deal, it is a safe bet that most employees understand the term ’synergy’ to mean only one thing: ’I’m going to lose my job’.”

“Unless the organization is equipped with a well-defined, replicable, flexible process, it is doomed to repeat its mistakes – or make new ones – in every future deal.”

15 – Let’s Buy a Company | by H. Lee Rust

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During the 1980s, the corporate world witnesses the greatest merger boom in history. It almost seemed as if mergers and acquisitions increased enormously. Author Lee Rust gives practical advice on mergers and acquisitions for the small guys. Let’s Buy a Company: How to Accelerate Growth Through Acquisitions includes sample letters, calculations, spreadsheets, checklists, and others. This book is recommended for anyone to read before you get yourself caught up in your first acquisition.

Quotes from the Book

 “The easiest acquisitions are done in a fragmented industry with a large number of relatively small participants.”

“Years ago, my father told me the story of the dog chasing the truck. ’What would he do with it,’ he asked, ’if he ever caught it?’”

“In general, it is not overly difficult to fund an acquisition that is fairly priced and can be shown to be an attractive addition to the business of a buyer.”

16 – The Human Side of M&A | by Dennis C. Carey and Dayton Ogden

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In the 1990s, mergers and acquisitions reached an all-time high, yet academic research confirms that mergers do not work. The authors of The Human Side of M&A: How CEOs Leverage the Most Important Asset in Deal Making writes that most mergers fail due to the “soft side” or the cultural and human dimension. The authors include their experience of outlaying the hard problems of the “soft side” in people. This book is highly recommended before you start the deal. Whether you are an executive, student, or anyone that may be involved in mergers in the future. This book lays out interviews with executives of their successes and failures.

Quotes from the Book

“It doesn’t take a business historian to grasp the lessons from failed mergers of the past.”

“The key challenge for the merging organizations is to take stock of a full menu of human capital issues quickly in a regulatory environment that makes it difficult in the face of delays, rampant uncertainty and a high degree of anxiety at all levels.”

“The CEO’s view is likely to be the most comprehensive, so it is bound to differ somewhat from anyone else’s in management, even those who may be part of the top management team.”

“Setting up and evaluating a human balance sheet is a tricky proposition, but that is what we recommend companies do when contemplating a merger.”

17 – Inside Cisco | by Ed Paulson

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Anyone in business will benefit from this book. Inside Cisco: The Real Story of Sustained M&A Growth is recommended for detailed analyzes of Cisco’s acquisition methodology, from its employee retention, target identification, and selection to merger integration. It’s no wonder that Cisco is a business for the New Economy and beyond.

Quotes from the Book

“What differentiates Cisco from other companies is that it not only knows the way it wants to operate, it actually operates that way.”

“The future is what Cisco purchases; minimal value is placed on the target’s historical performance.”

“Cisco has no interest in taking over a company that does not want to be acquired.”

“Being a technological agnostic has, in my opinion, kept Cisco on the cutting edge as its competitors tried to protect their existing positions.”

18 – Valuation | by Kenneth R. Ferris and Barbara S. Pecherot Petitt

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The evidence is stack up – the majority of mergers fail and most never reach their long-term promise. Yet, firms constantly keep bidding top prices to acquire business targets. Even economists created a phenomenon of this behavior: the winner’s curse. The authors of the Valuation: Avoiding the Winner’s Curse outline several approaches to business valuations.

Quotes from the Book

 “The fundamental tenet of investment valuation is well-established in corporate finance: The value of an asset today is the present value of the future cash flows that the asset is expected to provide its owners.”

“The valuation of a target firm for merger or acquisitions can be a lengthy process.”

“In essence, in about one of every two mergers or acquisitions, the acquirer management commits some type of critical error – in the assessment of target-firm value, in the bidding process or in the postacquisition integration of the acquiree.”

“Perhaps the most commonly used form of valuation analysis involves the use of price-to-earnings multiples.”

Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Merges and Acquisitions

This article was an attempt to consolidate the best books on mergers and acquisitions. Obviously, the list is not an exhaustive list of every book on the subject. The list attempts to orchestrate all sides, all corners, both inside and out of mergers and acquisitions.

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