When you think of massive business deals, you might jump to tech buyouts like Facebook purchasing Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion or Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm for $4 billion. While these billion-dollar deals seem unreal to the everyday person, the largest deals in history make even Disney and Facebook’s acquisitions look like the spare change under your couch cushion. Prepare yourself for four of the most expensive business deals ever.
4. Dow Chemical and DuPont
Estimated value: $130 billion
In 2015, Dow Chemical and DuPont started laying the framework for a massive merger of the two chemical manufacturing giants. The plan was to join forces in a “merger of equals” to consolidate power and cut costs in a declining market.
It took two years to get the merger finalized. In 2017, the two companies emerged as DowDuPont after a $130 billion deal. After the merger was complete, the mega company had already made plans to divide into three separate, publicly traded companies: one for materials science, one for specialty products, and one for agriculture.
3. Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless
Estimated value: $132 billion
It may sound strange that Verizon Communications has to buy Verizon Wireless, seeing as they share the same name. Yes, Verizon Communications does own Verizon Wireless, but not many people may know that the British telecommunications company Vodafone actually owned a 45% stake of the company as well.
The 2013 deal for Verizon Communications to buy out Vodafone and become the sole owner of Verizon Wireless cost $132 billion to complete. Verizon is the largest cellular network in the United States, employing over 144,000 people and providing service to more than 84 million devices.
2. AOL Inc. and Time Warner
Estimated value: $164.7 billion
ven corporate big wigs make mistakes sometimes. The merger between AOL and Time Warner was one such example.
In the year 2000, AOL Inc. was the largest internet provider in the United States and looking to expand their digital network while Time Warner was looking to gain new customers and make their presence known online. In what seemed like one of the greatest business deals of all time, AOL decided to merge with Time Warner, giving AOL the benefit of using Time Warner’s established cable network and giving Time Warner access to AOL’s tens of millions of subscribers.
The merger was completed for an astounding $164.7 billion, which, if adjusted for inflation, is equivalent to $226 billion today. But things did not stay happy for long. Shortly after, the dot-com bubble burst, and both companies were hurt drastically. By 2002, Time Warner had posted losses of almost $100 billion, and by 2009, both Time Warner and AOL’s stock prices had fallen by 90%. In the end, it has been dubbed “the biggest mistake in corporate history” by Time Warner’s own CEO.
1. Vodafone Airtouch PLC and Mannesmann
Estimated value: $202.8 billion
Fourteen years before it sold its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless in one of the most expensive business deals in history, Vodafone launched a hostile takeover of German wireless company Mannesmann AG. This deal was not very popular, especially with the German people. Mannesmann was one of the largest firms in Germany, and the people were not happy to see it fall under control of a foreign company. Vodafone was intent on expanding its influence.
After several rounds of negotiations, including discussions from Mannesmann attempting to sell to other companies, Vodafone continued to increase its price until the shareholders couldn’t refuse. The deal ended up costing a record-breaking $202.8 billion in 1999. Adjusted for inflation, that is the equivalent of $287 billion by today’s standards, putting it well above any other business deal in history.
Amazon may be out making headlines by purchasing Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, but that is still pocket change compared to these monster deals. Even the largest merger announced in 2019 can’t even come close, only reaching $74 billion. Maybe they just don’t make them like they used to.