Booz Allen, Oberon deals teach business lessons

A few months ago, I moderated a panel on mergers and acquisitions that included Dave Young and Jodi Johnson, who sold their company, Oberon Associates, to Stanley Inc. last year.

One comment they made stuck with me. They said they had higher offers from other companies, which means they could have walked away with more money.

Not that Stanley’s $173.6 million offer was low, but a deciding factor was the cultural fit between the two companies. Young and Johnson felt the company they had spent years building had the best chance of flourishing as part of Stanley, and that decision was more important than selling the company to the highest bidder.

I’m sure Ralph Shrader, chairman and chief executive officer of Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., can identify with Young and Johnson’s logic. In deciding how Booz Allen would separate its commercial and government businesses, Shrader had 20,000 employees and nearly a century of history to consider.

If he had picked a different course, that history possibly would have come to an end and those 20,000 individuals could have found themselves working in a much different environment.

Connecting the right buyer with the right seller is one of the most fundamental challenges in the M&A game. For sellers like Booz Allen and Oberon, that challenge can focus on culture.

For buyers, culture is important, but they are also looking at customers, growth projections and new technologies.

Although the overall economy might be weak, the government M&A market is healthy and strong -- just ask any of the dealmakers in this month’s special report.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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