Understanding and managing dynamic stakeholder relationships around mergers and acquisitions
Public questioning of the desirability and sustainability of the market economy and the societal role of business is arguably unprecedented. These concerns are inextricably linked to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity, significant corporate events with disruptive consequences for stakeholder relationships.
In this thesis, I explore disruptions around the complex web of stakeholder relationships during an M&A activity, and the public relevance of M&A activity examined through the A$11bn mega-merger process between Australian gaming groups Tatts Group Limited (Tatts) and Tabcorp Holdings Limited (Tabcorp) over 2016-2017. To develop a stakeholder group relationship framework a qualitative case study methodology was used.
Gaps identified in the stakeholder and M&A literature point to the thesis research question: How can we identify, understand and address the stakeholder and management implications of M&A activity? The general finding is this can be done by understanding M&A activity as social, economic and political processes. To do this involves identifying, understanding and addressing stakeholder relationships as disruptive of, and disrupted by, M&A activity through their multidirectional, inter-group, intra-group and balanced relationships.
The thesis is by publications, combining four articles and a narrative forming the main body of work.
Article 1 provides a structured literature review (SLR) exploring the literature connecting stakeholders with M&A activity. It finds the extant literature is dominated by a unidirectional analysis that primarily considers the effect of M&A on stakeholders and falls short in understanding the complex web of relationships between various stakeholder groups and M&A activities.
Article 2 defines stakeholder "relationships" and "balance", and a qualitative case study methodological approach outlined. Examining regulator and racing industry relationships during the Tatts-Tabcorp merger process, the finding is that stakeholder relationship implications of M&A activity can be identified and addressed by examining their balances, involving understanding stakeholder relationships as multidirectional, between and among stakeholders.
In Articles 3 and 4, I examine the management of several stakeholder group relationships during the Tatts -Tabcorp merger process. This was applied to six stakeholder groups - shareholders, Pacific Consortium, the racing industry, regulators, competitors and advisers. The management of these stakeholders is found to be crucial in securing the merger's implementation, which required both accommodating and disempowering various stakeholder interests. Balancing several stakeholder group interests allowed the parties to weaken and ignore other powerful stakeholder group concerns.
The thesis contributes to theory, praxis and policy in several ways. The contributions to the ethical stakeholder and M&A theories are theoretical stakeholder relationship frameworks for: l) investigating disruptions around stakeholder relationships during M&A activity; 2) bringing the web of stakeholder relationships into "sight," making it something tangible that requires its own explanation; and 3) showing a way to make explicit how these stakeholder relationships played out and how power dynamics were managed. For practitioners the thesis points to ways to: I) consider and incorporate stakeholders into M&A activity; 2) manage the uneven balance in stakeholder concerns; and 3) give concrete meaning to stakeholder capitalism as it relates to M&A activity. For policymakers, the thesis informs the public policy debate about M&A activity and, by extension, the policy debate about the societal roles of the market economy and business.