Despite nearly $5 trillion of annual global merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, the degree of shareholder value created by M&A remains a topic of debate. The historical view is that M&A does not increase value for acquiring firms, however recent public company financial research suggests that returns are highly variable, rather than uniformly negative. Cultural differences between acquiring and acquired companies, or corporate cultural distance (CCD), are noted as a potential cause of this variability, however, public company findings remain inconclusive. Although private equity (PE) is responsible for approximately 20% of annual M&A transaction value, nearly all prior research is based solely on public company information. This research uses interviews with 30 senior executives from 12 PE portfolio companies that are serial practitioners of M&A. Research findings support the importance of aligning strategic rationale, assessment of CCD, integration approach, and acquiring company structure to achieve positive M&A returns. Successful acquirers also benefitted from multi-cycle learning effects achieved through dedicated teams, the development of detailed diligence and integration playbooks, and strong post-mortem processes. Specific elements of PE-backed serial acquisition programs include the danger of focusing solely on multiple arbitrage rather than strategic fit and the unique considerations of acquiring primarily smaller, founder-led, private family businesses. Although complex, successful navigation of these elements may lead to economic returns of private company M&A exceeding public company M&A returns.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Consolidation and merger of corporations; Private equity; Corporate culture

Date of Award


School Affiliation

George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Ann Feyerherm

Included in

Business Commons