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January 31, 2022

Successful Acquisitions Through Leadership and Culture

In December of 2018, the 35th largest deal of all time happened. It was the sale of Express Scripts to Cigna for $67 Billion. This very secretive deal came down to the two CEOs of both parties working together. Tim Wentworth, CEO of Evernorth, was the CEO of Express Scripts at that time of sale, and in this article, he will be sharing how the deal was executed successfully through leadership and culture. 

"You can still share the same goals but have different cultures. What you really need to focus on is values, because those are non-negotiables." - Tim Wentworth 


According to Tim, both companies, at that time, were on thin ice and couldn't afford the deal leaking to anybody. Express Scripts has just lost one of its biggest clients, and Cigna has just failed a merger due to regulatory issues. Because of this, it was in their best interest to finish the deal as quickly and quietly as possible. And the only way this was possible was with solid leadership. 

Both CEOs were front and center on the deal and had the trust of their board members, which allowed them to negotiate and agree on the deal without ever involving them until before signing. 

They were also confident that this was the best deal for their shareholders and they could guide them in the new direction that the company was going. 

Focus on Culture and Values

What made this acquisition successful was detailed preparation and a focus on culture and values. Before the deal happened, Express Scripts was already looking at Cigna as a potential acquirer, because they were already inside one ecosystem. 

Even at pre-diligence, you can look at things like Glassdoor to give you an overview of what culture looks like, similarities and differences, and how you plan on moving forward. 

However, there will always be multiple cultures within an organization, especially for large companies, and values are always non-negotiable. Values always have to come first, and it has to be uniform across the entire organization. This is an area your diligence should focus on early. 

Focus on Employees and Customers

Another important recipe for success is focusing on employees and customers. You need to focus on the acquired company's customers and the team that supports them. They are the people the customers listen to, and you need them, more than anything, to keep your customers. 

On the other hand, you also need to focus on your native clients. The last thing you want is to make them feel like they're not as important anymore because you have new customers. 

The best thing that you can do is keep customers and employees happy and excited about new products and their future under new ownership. 

Common Mistakes

The biggest mistake that people make is overpromising that nothing will change post-acquisition. Promising something you cannot fulfill will break people's trust. In an acquisition, change is inevitable, and you need to be transparent about it. 

The other mistake is waiting too long to implement changes that you know you're going to do anyway. You will put them in a constant state of uncertainty, and it is better if you are honest with them, remove uncertainty as soon as you can, and get that process out of the way.   

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