Sub-theme 39: The Unexpected in M&As: A Balancing Act?

Satu Teerikangas
University of Turku, Finland
Philippe Véry
EDHEC Business School, France
Mélanie Hassett
University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Conventional theorizing on mergers and acquisitions (M&As) is vested amid assumptions of rationality and linearity (Vaara, 1999; Schweiger & Goulet, 2000; Riad, 2005; Teerikangas & Joseph, 2012). Looked at from this perspective, M&As are treated as something ‘known’, a phenomenon that can be neatly managed via rational decision-making approaches and phase-based implementation models. Taking a critical stance, though, it can be argued that research on M&A has failed to keep pace with shifts in adjacent disciplines including strategic management and change management, where more ambiguous notions of change including emergence (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002; Burnes, 2004; Livne-Tarandach & Bartunek, 2009) on the one hand, and surfing amid chaos and continuous change (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997; Feldman, 2000; Burnes, 2005) on the other, have in recent decades come to the fore.
In this sub-theme, using the lens of the unexpected, the attention shifts to the unknown, the emerging, or the surprising in M&A contexts. Dramatic shifts in the external environment – including 9/11, the 2008 credit crunch, Brexit, or the 2016 Trump Presidency – offer wake-up calls for scholars to take the unexpected seriously. While such exemplars of the unexpected can be costly, they can equally withhold the seed for opportunity, be it via business renewal or enhanced competitiveness.
The unexpected can affect M&A activity in several ways:

  • For one, major shifts in the institutional environment can surprise firms’ strategic trajectories (Martynova & Renneboog, 2008). Long-term plans concerning acquisition programs might need to be refreshed. All the while, the effect can go the other way, in that acquiring firms’ announcements of new acquisition deals may surprise the market and the industry at large. M&As thus provoke unexpected changes in the operational environment of the involved firms’ stakeholders. Notwithstanding, loyal customers and suppliers may react in unexpected ways (Anderson et al., 2001), withdraw and turn to competition. Media bears a role in attending to deals in unexpected ways, prompting the blocking or furthering deals (Tienari et al., 2003). Combined, these kinds of ripple effects in the acquisitive landscape have received scant research attention to date.

  • For another, the unexpected surfaces with respect to acquisition strategic decision-making. An acquirer might plan to grow through acquisitions, but seldom knows in advance which targets are for sale. Acquirers thus need to be alert to seizing opportunities to purchase available targets. Even seemingly deliberate acquisition strategies are, actually, based on hopes, expectations and opportunities (Very, 2004). Notwithstanding, a target company can be taken by surprise by a purchase offer. Instead of the prevailing planned approach to acquisition strategy, it might thus be timely to view M&As as a constituent of emergent strategies. Further, to what extent can plans and emergence be balanced in acquisition decision-making?

  • Third, unexpected events can be considered an inherent characteristic of acquisition process management. For one, the pre-acquisition phase is likely bear in unexpected ways onto the challenge of post-acquisition integration, be it with respect to surprises regarding the actual value of the acquired company, the quality of the acquired resources and capabilities, top managers’ contracts and pension schemes, reactions of employees, cultural differences, bribery and corruption, environmental issues, etc. (Very & Schweiger, 2001). As for employees, the announcement of an acquisition often bears an element of the unexpected, and surfaces fears about the future (Teerikangas, 2012). This may in turn bear on post-M&A identification processes (Colman & Lunnan, 2011). Taken from this perspective, the post-acquisition integration process takes on a new meaning – one of adjusting to the unexpected and surprising instead of managing in the realm of the planned and the known. What is then, the role of acquired and buying firm top, middle and integration managers in enabling such change? What kinds of competences and skills are needed to balance amid the unknown? Is there a need to re-theorize acquisition management?

In this spirit, we invite papers that explore (1) the unexpected in M&A contexts, its causes and consequences, (2) how actors and institutions thrive and manage amid the unexpected. We look forward to receiving papers focused on but not limited to the following themes:

  • Strategic direction and the unexpected. How does the unexpected affect corporate and acquisition strategies? What is the role of unexpected offers, deals and bids for the involved firms? How do surprising opportunities change the strategic direction of a firm, industry, a nation state, or perhaps a region? How do external events, including Brexit or US presidential elections shape firms’ acquisition strategies and industry structures? What is the role of social media in guiding strategic and daily discourse and the broader public toward novel directions? How to balance between planning and emergence in acquisition strategic decision-making be it at the level of individual acquisitions or acquisition programs?

  • Acquisition management amid the unexpected. How can acquisition process management cater to the unexpected? How do acquirers manage risks and prepare for surprises during pre-deal due diligence and valuation? How to deal with unpleasant post-deal surprises including a poor talent pipeline, corruption or environmental concerns? How do firms accommodate their resources to unexpected strategic opportunities? Is post-acquisition integration a planned or emergent process? What are the consequences for the main actors concerned? What are the implications for socio-cultural integration?

  • Emotional coping amid the unexpected. As major organizational events, M&A are surrounded by intense emotions. Often the experience of emotionality in M&A contexts is related to the surprise effect that a deal has on the concerned stakeholders. This experience may differ across stakeholder groups, acquisition types, locations, processes, cultures, and individuals. Emotions thus play an important role in how M&As are experienced, as they help to make sense of what is happening (Kusstatscher & Cooper, 2005; Sinkovics et al., 2011; Gunkel et al., 2015). Going forward, we ask how do employees, decision-makers and stakeholders cope with the emotionality surrounding the unexpected? Beyond coping, is there space for thriving amid the unexpected and developing resilience toward the unexpected?

  • Theorizing the unexpected. How to study the unexpected and the emerging in M&A? What kinds of theoretical lenses and methodological approaches can help to explore and capture the unexpected in M&A contexts (Haleblian et al., 2009; Meglio & Risberg, 2010; Faulkner et al., 2012; Cartwright et al., 2012)?



  • Andersson, H., Havila, V., & Salmi, A. (2001): “Can you buy a business relationship? On the importance of customer and supplier relationships in Acquisitions.” Industrial Marketing Management, 30 (7), 575–586.
  • Brown, S.L., & Eisenhardt, K.M. (1997): ”The Art of Continuous Change: Linking Complexity Theory and Time-Paced Evolution in Relentlessly Shifting Organizations.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 42, 1–34.
  • Burnes, B. (2004): ”Emergent Change and Planned Change – Competitors or Allies?” International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 24 (9), 886–902.
  • Burnes, B. (2005): “Complexity Theories and Organizational Change.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 7 (2), 73–90.
  • Cartwright, S., Teerikangas, S., Rouzies, A., & Wilson-Evered, E. (2012): “Methods in M&A: A look at the past, and the future, to forge a path forward.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 28 (2): 95–106.
  • Colman, H.L., & Lunnan, R. (2011): “Organizational Identification and Serendipitous Value Creation in Post-Acquisition Integration.” Journal of Management, 37 (3), 839–860.
  • Faulkner, D., Teerikangas, S., & Joseph, R. (eds.) (2012): The Handbook of Mergers and Acquisitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Feldman, M.S. (2000): “Organizational Routines as a Source of Continuous Change.” Organization Science, 11 (6), 611–629.
  • Gunkel, M., Schlaegel, G., Rossteutscher, R., & Wolff, B. (2015): “The human aspect of cross-border acquisition outcomes: The role of management practices, employee emotions, and national culture.” International Business Review, 24 (3), 394–408.
  • Haleblian, J., Devers, C.E., McNamara, G., Carpenter, M.A., & Davison, R.B. (2009): “Taking stock of what we know about mergers and acquisitions: A review and research agenda.” Journal of Management, 35 (3), 469–502.
  • Kusstatscher, V., & Cooper, C.L. (2005): Managing Emotions in Mergers and Acquisitions. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Livne-Tarandach, R., & Bartunek, J.M. (2009): “A New Horizon for Organizational Change and Development Scholarship: Connecting Planned and Emergent Change.” Research in Organizational Change and Development, 17, 1–35.
  • Martynova, M., & Renneboog, L .(2008): “A century of corporate takeovers: What have we learned and where do we stand?” Journal of Banking & Finance, 32, 2148–2177.
  • Meglio, O., & Risberg, A. (2010): “Mergers and acquisitions-time for a methodological rejuvenation of the field?” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26 (1), 87–95.
  • Riad, S. (2005): “The Power of ‘Organizational Culture’ as a Discursive Formation in Merger Integration.” Organization Studies, 26 (10), 1529–1554.
  • Schweiger, D.M., & Goulet, P.K. (2000). “Integrating Mergers and Acquisitions: An International Research Review.” In: C. Cooper & A. Gregory (eds.). Advances in Mergers and Acquisitions, 1. Amsterdam: JAI Press, 61–91.
  • Sinkovics, R.R., Zagelmeyer, S., & Kusstatscher, V. (2011): “Between merger and syndrome: The intermediary role of emotions in four cross-border M&As.” International Business Review, 20 (1), 27–47.
  • Teerikangas, S. (2012): “Dynamics of acquired firm pre-acquisition employee reaction.” Journal of Management, 38 (2), 599–639.
  • Teerikangas, S., & Joseph, R.J. (2012): “Post deal integration: An overview.” In: D. Faulkner, S. Teerikangas & R.J. Joseph (eds.): The Handbook of Mergers and Acquisitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 339–371.


Satu Teerikangas is Professor of Management & Organization at the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Turku, Finland. Her research centers on the management of strategic change, particularly as regards the execution of mergers and acquisitions. Her work has been published in leading academic outlets and she is co-editor of the “Handbook of Mergers and Acquisitions” (2012) by Oxford University Press. She co-chaired the M&A sub-theme at the EGOS 2012 Colloquium in Helsinki and at the EGOS 2014 Colloquium in Rotterdam, and has also chaired M&A tracks at EURAM 2008–2014.
Philippe Véry is Professor in Strategy at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France. His research on M&A has been published in numerous leading management journals. His current research projects focus on M&A management and on economic crime. He has co-chaired several tracks at EGOS conferences, among others the M&A sub-theme at the EGOS 2012 Colloquium in Helsinki and at the EGOS 2014 Colloquium in Rotterdam. Since 2014, he also co-chairs the M&A track at EURAM.
Mélanie Hassett is a Lecturer in International Business at Sheffield University Management School in the UK. Her work focuses on value creation and the sociocultural dynamics in cross-border M&A. Her work features in the ‘Management International Review’, ‘Baltic Journal of Management’ and ‘Advances in Mergers and Acquisitions’. She co-chaired the M&A sub-theme at the EGOS 2012 Colloquium in Helsinki and at the EGOS 2014 Colloquium in Rotterdam.