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The overlooked influence of personality, idiosyncrasy and eccentricity in corporate mergers and acquisitions: 120 years and six distinct waves

Kathleen Marshall Park (Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Anthony M. Gould (Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 9 January 2017




Merger waves have typically been viewed through the prism of either corporate strategy or macro-economics. This paper aims to broaden debate about factors that cause – or are associated with – mergers/merger waves over a 120-year period. It ascribes “personalities” to six distinct waves and draws an overarching conclusion about how merger architects are viewed.


Databases and interviews are used to piece together detail about CEOs associated with six distinct and recognized merger-waves during a 120-year focal period. The study establishes and defends, a priori, principles for interrogating data to get a sense of each wave-era’s corporate personality/idiosyncrasy. For each era, two exemplar CEO-profiles are presented and – through inductive-reasoning – held out as representative.


Distinct personalities are associated with six merger waves. Each wave is given a summary anthropomorphic description which conveys a sense that it may be viewed as the non-rationale expression of aggregate and historically distinct CEO behavior within a circumscribed timeframe.

Research limitations/implications

The work’s key limitation – explicitly acknowledged – is that it amassed data/evidence from disparate historical sources. However, the authors have developed and defended principles for addressing this concern.

Practical implications

Improved investment analyses, in particular. The work prefigures formal establishment of a new variable-set impacting share-price prediction.

Social implications

The paper offers a perspective on how psychological/personality-related variables impact management decision-making, creating something of a bridge between mostly non-overlapping research disciplines.


The paper broadens debate about how and why merger waves occur. It removes the exclusive analysis of merger waves from the hands of economic historians and strategic management theorists.



Park, K.M. and Gould, A.M. (2017), "The overlooked influence of personality, idiosyncrasy and eccentricity in corporate mergers and acquisitions: 120 years and six distinct waves", Journal of Management History, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 7-31.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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