August 06, 2001

UCLA Anderson Author Examines Digital Deals: How and Why Tech Leaders Achieve Successful Partnerships

(Note to Editors: For a press copy of "Digital Deals: Strategies for Selecting and Structuring Partnerships," please contact Ann Pryor at McGraw-Hill, (212) 904-4078 o ann_pryor@mcgraw-hill.com.)

Los Angeles — The recent tangle between AT&T and Comcast Corp. over broadband communications reflects the ever-changing world of digital deals, as companies pursue strategic partnerships and scramble for space in the global marketplace.

The type of dynamic being played out by AT&T and Comcast puts markets in a whirl, says George T. Geis, adjunct professor at UCLA Anderson and author of the new book, "Digital Deals: Strategies for Selecting and Structuring Partnerships" (McGraw-Hill).

"Deal-making and partnerships have always been a large part of the way organizations work. But today it's been ratcheted up a level because there is so much more complexity in the markets. The number of possible combinations one can put together is much different than in the days of Henry Ford," said Geis, who co-authored the book with his son George S. Geis, a manager at McKinsey & Company.

"Digital Deals" provides a blueprint for planning and executing sound business development strategy. Geis and Geis explore classic deal structures, including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, minority equity investments, commerce alliances and spin-offs. Throughout the book, they examine why traditional deal approaches must be rethought in the new economy. In addition to AT&T, the authors use case studies from Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, AOL and other big merger winners of the past decade to illustrate various new approaches that work, along with those that don't work.

"Because telecommunications, technology and other markets are constantly changing, companies need to systematically analyze their organizational DNA," said the elder Geis, who teaches in the areas of information technology, accounting and finance.

"Executives are hungry for a systematic way to make sense of complex markets, but they aren't sure which deals to do or how to structure key relationships so as to avoid being marginalized," said George S. Geis. The bottom line is that organizations of all sizes need to craft a digital deal strategy based upon a company's core competencies and the complementary "choke points" in a market.

The father-and-son team proposes an eight-step, market-modeling framework for competitive positioning and strategic partnering in the following sections:

Crafting a Systematic Deal Strategy — explores the 21st-century ramifications and complexities of partnerships and presents a systematic framework for selecting appropriate digital deals.
Structuring Digital Deals — examines how executives in companies from Intel to AT&T established and executed the five primary types of deal structures. These structures include acquisitions and mergers, joint ventures, minority equity investments, advertising and commerce alliances, and spin-offs and tracking stocks.
Putting It All Together — explores the correlation between deal rationale and deal structure, and offers guidance for building a system that supports digital deal analysis and action.
In examining digital deal structures, the book cites AT&T's restructuring plan as an example of how an organization uses spin-offs to carve out a new company from existing assets. According to the book, the number of corporate spin-offs has increased in the new economy, as many firms decide that size is not a virtue. The book also cites examples of when spin-offs don't work.

"Corporate strategy means being able to move quickly, but also being able to move smartly," George T. Geis said. He noted that one of the most pressing questions facing the technology industry is how to stimulate the build-out of broadband. "It boils down to a question of business models, figuring out how all significant players — from content to communications — can develop business models that work and support an entire ecosystem."

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