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Biggest Acquisitions of the Millennium (aka 11 years)


Getting the news of Skype being purchased by Microsoft was certainly a milestone – synonymous with free VoIP, this company (especially after an unfruitful acquisition by eBay) seemed destined to be on its own forever.  But like in any industry, there is always a bigger fish that is hungry; and instead of trying for an IPO, Skype made the move to be consumed by the software juggernaut.

The tech world will be buzzing about this for days, but is the USD $83 Billion purchase really one of the most impressive acquisitions ever?  And even more importantly, will it be a success? We would like to point out some other high-profile deals that you may like to know about.

America Online buy Time Warner (2001)

$165 Billion

This one is infamous – as it turned out to be one of the biggest acquisition failures in history.  The $165 Billion merger turned two respectable companies into an unwieldy, bloated mess that got hammered by the burst of the dot-com bubble. By 2002, a $99-Billion loss was reported, very little progress was made to find synergy between the company’s many divisions and investors were baffled by how such a sure thing could have failed. AOL’s reputation was so bad by 2003, that they kept the Time Warner name instead. Ouch.

Vodafone Airtouch buys Mannesmann (2000)

$202.8 Billion

Situated in London, UK – Vodafone is clearly the Big Johnny of the mobile telecom industry there, and has stakes in over 70 countries.  When it purchased German company of Mannesmann, itself a huge consumer of other companies, it sent shockwaves around the world for the sale price as well as the fact that nothing like this had happened in Germany before. Americans who don’t know who Vodafone is should consider that 45% of Verizon Wireless is owned by this global provider.

Shareholders buy Phillip Morris Intl. (2008)

$113 Billion

For years, Phillip Morris grew from a world-class tobacconist to a conglomerate that eventually became known as Altria in 2003.  Fearing that the brand name was being diluted by a parent company with so many fingers in so many different pots, shareholders opted to spin off the division known as Phillip Morris International (established in 1967) which now solely focuses on worldwide distribution of tobacco products. For trivia buffs, it is interesting to note that Kraft Food, another subsidiary of Altria, was acquired by shareholders in 2007.

Exxon Corp. buys Mobil Corp. (2000)

$85.1 Billion

How do you get to be the biggest oil company in the world?  You do it by putting two of the biggest companies together, of course.  This historic deal became official at the end of 1999 and went into full effect in 2000 – and we know how well they’re doing now because we are aware of just how much we pay for our gas every day.  What makes this deal so significant isn’t just the cash however. It is because these two companies used to be owned by John D. Rockefeller, but were split by the government about a century earlier. Take that, history.

US Treasury Department buys certain assets of GM (2009)

$61.2 Billion

In an unprecedented move, The US Government had to step in during the global economic downturn and bail out numerous industries.  None were as embarrassed as General Motors, which not only had to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, but also rely on a sale of $61.2 Billion dollars worth of its assets in order to turn itself around.  This one has a ‘happy ending’ though – in November of 2010 GM emerged on the stock market with the world’s largest IPO of $23 Billion. Way to go, capitalism.

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