Preparing for a potential merger during a year-long hostile acquisition bid

Air Products: Preparing for a potential merger during a year-long hostile acquisition bid

Challenge:

Air Products began pursuing Airgas as a strategic acquisition to strengthen its position in the North American packaged gases market. This offer was quickly rejected by Airgas and thus began a year-long hostile takeover attempt.

During this time, Air Products was challenged to plan for the potential integration of 14,000 new employees across hundreds of sites in North America, including:

  • Preparing the organization and its leaders to deliver a clear, compelling Day One experience to all stakeholders.
  • Developing plans for the operational integration of the two companies.
  • Designing the right contingency plans in the event the company had to change course.
  • Maintaining business continuity.

Actions:

  • Served as the change management and communications lead on the PMO; conducted detailed planning and reporting.
  • Facilitated the development of and alignment around “Integration Guiding Principles.”
  • Interviewed leaders to understand perspectives and alignment opportunities; translated insights into a “Day One Manifesto.”
  • Developed and maintained a thorough analysis of internal and external stakeholders.
  • Translated the acquisition rationale into an emotionally compelling, purpose-driven message platform. Performed the same task for the Merchant Gases’ business strategy.
  • Facilitated detailed change management planning across all business lines and individual functional areas, providing templates, coaching and counsel to an extended internal team.
  • Developed the overarching engagement plan for Day 1 through 100, including a
    high-energy welcome event.
  • Designed an integration ambassadors program that would enable Air Products leaders to personally meet 99% of Airgas employees within two weeks of Day One.
  • Designed and facilitated “First In” training for executive leaders and functional integration teams.
  • Streamlined the review and approval process to enable timely communications.
  • Developed the strategy, plan, messages and communications collateral to support the company’s withdrawal of its tender offer.

Results:

  • Introduced a new communications and change management methodology to help identify and mitigate risks to stakeholders associated with the proposed integration within each area of the business.
  • Strengthened the partnership between Air Products’ Organizational Development and Communications teams by working together on various integration activities.
  • Introduced a new messaging philosophy and methodology that can be replicated for other business initiatives.
  • Gained insight on the company’s core strengths and potential blind spots in its leadership competency model. Uncovered a number of leadership competencies critical not only to the integration’s success but also to the ongoing management of the business. These competencies are being incorporated into a development program for frontline managers.
  • Created workshop to enhance leaders’ personal confidence and increase their ability to deal with ambiguity in preparation for integration. Through group exercises, video and discussion around the principles of listening and feedback, we enabled leaders to experience a “Day in the Life” of the Airgas employee.
  • Developed and effectively executed an alternative communications strategy once the decision was made to withdraw Air Products’ offer. (We didn’t miss a beat!) Feedback from internal stakeholders was positive, including comments that CEO John McGlade’s messages were clear, timely and confident. External reaction, particularly from the analysts, was generally positive, while news coverage on the topic was fair and balanced.

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