Learning from Deals Gone Wrong: An Interview with M&A Advisor Jim Stevenson


About the Episode

Learning from your mistakes is an important life lesson. Learning from the mistakes of others is smart business. Jim Stevenson shares a high-level overview of two M&A transactions that have gone wrong and points out the lessons that can be applied to any transaction. His suggestions include going after the smart money, not just the most money, performing risk assessment and research on the buyer’s track record, running a company while managing the sale, and creating an integration plan, not just a timeline. 

“Every deal will have challenges. It’s whether that challenge is big enough to say that that deal went wrong or not.”

Jim Stevenson

What You’ll Learn

  • What: Lessons from two struggling transactions involving overleveraging debt, creating an integration plan rather than a timeline, and expecting too much from a cultural merger. 
  • Why: Common reasons why M&A deals fail and what to look for before closing the deal.
  • How: Suggestions on how to avoid potential problems or deal killers in the transaction.
  • When: Lessons around the implications of deals gone wrong, managing risk, and steps to take.

Topics Covered

Why is it important to consider what can go wrong in a deal? What can be learned? [1:58]
What went wrong when a larger company acquired a smaller company and then overleveraged debt? [7:23] 
What percentage of deals go wrong? [10:24]
How can a seller avoid common risks that might lead to a deal going wrong? [15:10]
How extensively should a seller complete due diligence on a buyer before finalizing the sale? [21:25]
Where did things go wrong for the tech company that took its eye off running the business and focused on the deal instead? [25:08]
What percentage of sellers don’t hold themselves together throughout the sale process? [31:56] 

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Meet Our Guest

Jim Stevenson

Jim Stevenson

Partner, Spark International LTD | Los Angeles, CA & London, UK

Jim Stevenson, Founder and CEO of Bletchley Group, is a proven strategic advisor and inspirational leader who drives business growth through complex, challenging, or uncertain times. With a career spanning 20+ years, he focuses on strategy, organizational transformation, and growth, adding over $700M in value to clients. Several years ago, he joined Spark International as a Partner, a boutique fundraising and M&A firm, recognizing the value these brought to his clients in their growth journey.

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