Synergy Sources, Target Autonomy, and Integration in Acquisitions

Akbar Zaheer, Xavier Castañer, David Souder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Determining the appropriate level of integration is crucial to realizing value from acquisitions. Most prior research assumes that higher integration implies the removal of autonomy from target managers, which in turn undermines the functioning of the target firm if it entails unfamiliar elements for the acquirer. Using a survey of 86 acquisitions to obtain the richness of detail necessary to distinguish integration from autonomy, the authors argue and find that integration and autonomy are not the opposite ends of a single continuum. Certain conditions (e.g., when complementarity rather than similarity is the primary source of synergy) lead to high levels of both integration and autonomy. In addition, similarity negatively moderates the relationship between complementarity and autonomy when the target offers both synergy sources. In contrast, similarity does not moderate the link between complementarity and integration. The authors' findings advance scholarly understanding about the drivers of implementation strategy and in particular the different implementation strategies acquiring managers deploy when they attempt to leverage complementarities, similarities, or both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-632
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article was accepted under the editorship of Talya N. Bauer. We are grateful for research access and financial support from the member companies of the M&A Consortium project of the Strategic Management Research Center, Carlson School of Management, which made this project possible. On earlier drafts of this article, we received helpful comments from Keith Bahde, Phil Bromiley, Pierre Dussauge, Mehmet Genç, Jared Harris, Zeke Hernandez, Michael Lubatkin, Maggie Schomaker, Harbir Singh, Sri Zaheer, Maurizio Zollo, and participants at the SMS 2004 conference and the AOM 2005 conference, Boston University, Cambridge University, Cornell University, ESMT Berlin, HEC Lausanne, IESE, Instituto de Empresa, Ohio State University, RSM Erasmus University, and Tilburg University. We are also grateful to the HEC School of Management (Paris) and its Atos Origin Chair on Growth Strategies and Integration Management for financial support to the second author while in Paris. Finally, we thank Sharon Hansen for both administrative and research support, along with research assistants Ryan Jones and Evan Wells. All errors are ours.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • autonomy
  • complementarity
  • integration
  • mergers and acquisitions (M&As)
  • similarity


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