The Devil is in the Details for M&A
There is a reason that experts in M&A and financial communications, like our own Christine Simeone, are fanatical about building and adhering to a strict "playbook" that details down to the day, hour and sometimes minute each aspect of a pending announcement.
A merger, like the one just announced between Office Depot and OfficeMax, involve a widening circle of people who need to be informed, so adherence to a strategy and careful plan is critical. M&A have to be handled correctly for legal reasons, as well as to best present the situation to all of involved stakeholders -- employees, customers, partners, shareholders -- so the reason for the merger and its impact and value will be clearly understood by each interested party.
Somebody clearly skipped a step in the playbook in the Office Depot and OfficeMax merger. The New York Times reported in its DealBook that Office Depot mistakenly posted a paragraph about the pending merger in its earnings release on its web site. The release was quickly removed, but not before a number of news organizations spotted the "scoop" and reported on it.
I'm sure whoever was handling the M&A decided to pull the trigger in the playbook about what to do in the event of a leak and the merger was quickly officially announced. But I'm very sure some audiences were not as carefully notified and prepared as they would have been if this mistake did not take place.
Thanks to Kevin Whalen of Arbor Networks for pointing me in the direction of this gaffe, which is a cautionary tale for anyone who doesn't recognize how critical the planning and careful review of all materials is when there is a pending M&A.
The devil truly is in the details.