Clash of the Cultures
The announcement that JP Morgan would be bailing out Bear Stearns with a deal to purchase the company at $2 per share sent shockwaves across Wall Street last week.Then of course, today it was announced that JP Morgan had upped its offer to $10 per share. And it might even change again.
But beyond the obvious-the thousands of Bear employees potentially losing their jobs and both employees and investors potentially losing substantial sums of money-what about the actual outcome on the other side of the deal?
How do two companies come together under such acrimonious circumstances and still make it work?
When JP Morgan Chase's Chairman and CEO Jaime Dimon visited Bear Stearns last week, tense was an understatement according to published reports on the meetings with top Bear executives.
There were some seriously upset execs on hand but Dimon showed his face and took the questions from the crowd.
JP Morgan has a long history of mergers and acquisitions and top on the list generally is the combination of business units, technology, talent and the like. Culture of course is always on that list as well, how will the two companies come together and what will the underlying sentiment being as they move forward?
Bear Stearns is old school, a Wall Street fixture with deep banking roots. The Jamie Dimon JP Morgan is a newer regime with cost cutting and efficiency the focus of several mergers and acquisitions in its past.
Shareholders might try to block the sale and Joseph Lewis, Bear's biggest shareholder has already said he will take whatever action necessary to help the cause. But alas, JP Morgan is already moving in on Bear's turf, taking over conference rooms and some even say directing trading floors.
Full Disclosure: I happen to have been an employee at JP Morgan Chase when Dimon took the helm and saw the beginning of the Bank One merger efforts. Comparing pre-Dimon to post-Dimon ways was quite an exercise in modernization.
I've sat through the town hall meetings and the department pep talks pre-merger and during merger. And one thing is for certain, the change is huge but the outcome on the other end can often be meaningful.
Dimon came in full force and cut back in areas where spending was definitely out of whack and organized from the top down for his new regime. Then of course, JP Morgan sort of fell out of the limelight and quietly went along with its business.
Surprisingly the firm came out of the credit crisis with a relatively low profile, particularly to the likes of the other Wall Street big banks. Until last week that is.
Only time will tell if and how Bear will be combined but with a contentious start like this one it's an uphill battle with a lot of wounds to tend to along the way. If anyone can come in and make a merger like this work though, I'd say Dimon has a good shot at it.