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Scent of a Merger

Scent of a Merger

Most mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the expected business value. But Coty’s acquisition of Unilever’s cosmetics and fragrance subsidiary has been a success. The secret formula was a new approach to integration

Reader ROI

  • Why M&As fail
  • How an SOA approach can speed and simplify supply chain management
  • Why small integration teams are better than big ones

On December 14 and 15, 2005, Coty, one of the world's largest cosmetic and fragrance makers, held an all-hands-on-deck executive meeting at the company's headquarters in New York City. Five months earlier, Coty had acquired Unilever Cosmetics International (UCI), a subsidiary of the eponymous conglomerate, and Coty's IT team was just finishing moving UCI employees off Unilever's infrastructure and onto Coty's. This was tedious work, such as switching people from Outlook to Lotus Notes, the sort of project Coty CIO David Berry calls "brainless". Now, Coty's IT department was itching for a challenge.

But not the one Berry was handed at the meeting.

UCI's order entry, processing, financial, warehouse and shipping systems were still different from Coty's. The newly merged entity was like a corporate Noah's Ark, carrying two sales forces, two marketing departments, two financial teams and so on, preventing Coty from gaining the efficiencies it had counted on when it laid out $US800 million for UCI. At the New York meeting, Coty CFO Michael Fishoff told Berry that he had to have the companies integrated by the end of Coty's fiscal year, June 30, 2006.

You don't want to be one of those guys whose merger didn't work because it took too long

Coty CIO David Berry

In other words, he was giving Berry six months.

"Integration means the supply chain," says Berry, an American based in Haarlem, the Netherlands. And the supply chain was a mess; it spanned 10 countries, employed four ERP systems that fed three warehouse systems running five major distribution facilities on two continents. And now Berry had to figure out a way to get all those systems to communicate with one another. And do it in 180 days.

On his flight home, Berry had a couple of drinks and thought: "How are we going to pull this off?" By the time he got off the plane, he was, in his words, "a nervous wreck".

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