MT Masterclass - Synergy

What is it? We all love synergy. If you can work the S word into your business presentations you'll surely win the admiration of colleagues.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Synergy occurs when two or more business units combine with super efficiency, producing better results than they had as separate entities. Synergy is the magic ingredient in business restructurings. Investment bankers and consultants love synergy most of all. It was used to justify the biggest (and most embarrassing) deal that signalled the end of the boom - the takeover of Time Warner by AOL. 'Let's take a big provider of content' (Time Warner) 'and the biggest online distributor of content' (AOL) 'and stick 'em together. That'll be a good idea!'

Where did it come from? From the Greek, synergia, meaning 'working together'.

Synergists were a Lutheran sect in the 16th century - sort of prototype theological merchant bankers. In modern times, synergy became a commonplace during the merger mania of the late 1980s. You couldn't do a deal without identifying and promising future synergies. The market wanted to hear it and believe in it, so everybody kept talking about it, even when these much-vaunted synergies failed to materialise. Mind you, there were a lot of juicy fees to be earned arranging all those subsequent demergers too ...

Where's it going? If we are lurching slowly towards something like economic recovery, expect the City's dealmakers to start spotting synergies again where ordinary observers hadn't noticed them. So if you are approached in the near future by a corporate financier with a bundle of PowerPoint slides under his arm, smile calmly and repeat this mantra to ward off the evil spirits: 'DaimlerChrysler, Granada-Carlton, AOL Time Warner, BT ...'

Fad quotient (out of 10): Six.

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