Mergers and Acquisitions

Program Overview

Managing a merger or acquisition can be one of the greatest challenges faced by an organization. To reap maximum value, leaders must consider multiple factors, balance short- and long-term needs, and guide well-planned execution — often under the watchful eye of their boards and investors.

In Mergers and Acquisitions, an interdisciplinary team of Wharton professors makes sense of the complexities of this topic and helps you develop and implement successful strategies to support your company's mergers and acquisitions activity.

Mergers and Acquisition helps executives navigate a complex minefield, says Academic Director Bob Holthausen.

Program Experience

Highlights and Key Outcomes

In Mergers and Acquisitions, you will:

  • Determine a rationale, select and value acquisition targets, and evaluate the long-term potential of a partnership
  • Understand how to manage the complexities of the merger process
  • Identify acquisition strategies, execute and close deals, and integrate acquisitions successfully
  • Learn from faculty experts, Wharton alumni with extensive M&A involvement, and a cross-section of experienced senior leaders from different industries

Kent Matsumoto, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Glatfelter discusses program highlights.

Experience & Impact

Despite the fact that 8 out of 10 mergers and acquisitions fail, the rate of M&A activity worldwide continues to break records. As businesses flush with cash look to consolidate to become more competitive, they view mergers as a way to reduce their costs of doing business while increasing their revenue from greater market share.

Through Wharton’s Mergers and Acquisitions program, you will learn how to integrate the strategic, managerial, economic, and financial decisions that affect the execution of mergers and acquisitions. You and your peers will gain new insight into why acquisition strategy is related to all elements of the process, including valuation, negotiation, deal structure, due diligence, and integration.

Wharton faculty — led by Robert Holthausen, an expert on corporate evaluation who serves as editor of the Journal of Accounting and Economics — apply their field-based research and the latest strategic insights to help you navigate the complex minefield of M&A activity.

Faculty will facilitate discussions and case studies, and several real-world M&A simulations, enabling you to gain experience in successfully navigating a transaction while dealing with a wide array of issues, from taxation to due diligence to anti-trust questions. Because the program attracts global finance leaders and because its faculty work with organizations based around the world, the program provides insights and perspectives into the growing number of cross-border acquisitions. Developed to improve your odds for success, Mergers and Acquisitions will teach you strategies you can hone and execute quickly for measurable results.

Session topics include:

  • Strategic Assessment
  • Integration
  • Valuation
  • Negotiation Workshop
  • Due Diligence
  • Structuring Acquisitions
  • Managing Strategic Alliances
  • M&A Computer Simulation
  • Investment Banker Perspectives
  • Anti-Trust Issues

Overall, Mergers and Acquisitions will help you learn how to:

  • Think from an investment banker's perspective
  • Evaluate strategic acquisitions using a number of tools and frameworks
  • Effectively negotiate and manage strategic alliances
  • Gain more expertise in conducting due diligence and other steps in M&A activity

This program complements Driving Growth through Strategic Partnerships, which focuses on how to identify, develop, and sustain successful partnerships. Driving Growth through Strategic Partnerships will also help you evaluate partnerships over time to assess their long-term potential for success.

Who Should Attend

Mergers and Acquisitions is designed for executives involved in devising and/or executing mergers and acquisitions, including business development officers, CFOs and executive directors of finance, senior business analysts, division and unit heads pursuing acquisitions, and lawyers seeking to better understand the business side of M&A activity.

The program attracts a diverse group of strategy leaders from varied industries, backgrounds, and geographies who share their biggest challenges with the class. Faculty tailor content to address these issues, so participants enjoy a unique learning experience that resonates with them and meets their real-world needs. They leave Mergers and Acquisitions with tools and frameworks they can use to make a meaningful strategic impact within their companies or organizations.

While this program assumes no previous experience in mergers and acquisitions, many participants have such experience and also come away with more extensive insights and strategies. This program requires a basic knowledge of accounting — i.e., familiarity with balance sheets, income and cash flow statements, and finance. A refresher on these topics is offered on the Sunday afternoon before the program begins.

Fluency in English, written and spoken, is required for participation in Wharton Executive Education programs unless otherwise indicated.

Participant Profile

Participants by Industry

Mergers and Acquisitions participants by industry

Participants by Job Function

Mergers and Acquisitions participants by job function

Participants by Region

Mergers and Acquisitions participants by region

Plan Your Stay

This program is held at the Steinberg Conference Center located on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. Learn more about planning your stay at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus.

Group Enrollment

To further leverage the value and impact of this program, we encourage companies to send cross-functional teams of executives to Wharton. We offer group enrollment benefits to companies sending four or more participants.


Robert Holthausen

Robert Holthausen, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Academic Director

The Nomura Securities Co. Professor; Professor of Accounting; Professor of Finance, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Effects of organizational structure on financial performance, management compensation issues, valuation

Jennifer Blouin

Jennifer Blouin, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Professor of Accounting, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Effects of taxes on asset pricing, taxes and corporate payout behavior

Gordon Bodnar

Gordon Bodnar, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Director, International Economics Program, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

Research Interests: International finance, corporate finance

Emilie Feldman

Emilie Feldman, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Associate Professor of Management, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Corporate governance, corporate strategy, diversification, divestitures, firm scope, spinoffs

Michael Knoll

Michael Knoll, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania; Professor of Real Estate, Wharton; Co-Director, Center for Tax Law and Policy; Deputy Dean, Penn Law

Richard Shell

G. Richard Shell, JDSee Faculty Bio

Thomas Gerrity Professor; Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics; Professor of Management; Chairperson, Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department, The Wharton School

Harbir Singh

Harbir Singh, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Mack Professor; Professor of Management; Co-Director, Mack Institute for Innovation Management; Wharton School Faculty Director for the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Corporate governance, corporate restructuring, management buyouts, strategies for corporate acquisitions

David Wessels

David Wessels, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Adjunct Professor of Finance, The Wharton School


I'm responsible for the operations of a 94-year-old medical association that focuses on the business of medical group practice. As an organization, we are looking to grow, and as we surveyed the market it became evident that M&A was a potential means to that end. From an operational perspective, I know how important it is to acquire the financial acumen and the specialized vocabulary of folks who are in the M&A space on a day-to-day basis. I took the Mergers and Acquisitions course to understand more about the M&A process and the role I could play in the transaction as well as post-merger considerations.

The program and faculty were exceptional. It was great having professors who were clearly world class and on the cutting edge. At the same time, they were personable and accessible. They really were willing to give you the time, during the session or after, if you had questions. I couldn’t be more appreciative.

I particularly enjoyed the negotiations portion of the program. It allowed us to interact with amazingly bright classmates who were experts themselves. I learned a great deal not only from the course material, but from my fellow participants. I appreciated the great diversity in the room, both from an industry and an international perspective. For me, that set this course apart from those I’ve taken in the past.

I think Wharton does a good job of moving you through a great deal of information, as well as knowledge gathering, in a way where there are high expectations. You don’t just come in and tackle one concept that’s repeated over and over and work on that through the session. Instead, there was a pace to it that I particularly enjoyed, that really forced me to think, and made the days move quickly.

My company is in the midst of strategic M&A work; we're looking at targets and have already been through several phone calls and interactions with organizations we're looking to acquire. The Wharton program enhanced my understanding as well as my ability to lead in those situations. I apply skills and knowledge from the course every day.

I would give the program a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it to folks at any stage of an M&A experience.”

Todd EvensonChief Operating Officer, Medical Group Management Association

I enrolled in Mergers and Acquisitions because I have a huge amount of respect for Wharton’s world-class faculty and education. And secondly, it was very relevant to my job. At the Ott Group, I’m responsible for corporate development. I'm focusing on the execution of an M&A strategy to build a new arm of the company in diagnostic design, development, and manufacture. We've acquired one company and are in the process of acquiring another. As the principal for my company’s M&A deals, I wanted to get a feel for what the experts were saying.

I really liked the program a lot. I enjoyed the diversity of topics that were covered. Most importantly, we received not only basic strategy but a lot of practical guidance. I’ve started to apply those teachings to my work. For example, Professor David Wessels — who literally wrote the book on valuation — created the Key Value Driver equation representing how he thinks about value in companies, and why. I was able to take that home and use the KVD equation in my next valuation.

Also, the course changed the way I think about capital structure, based on Wessels’ lesson that the value of a company is completely based on growth rate, tax rate, return on invested capital (ROIC), and weighted average cost of capital (WACC). I started thinking about exactly what our ROIC and WACC are at the Ott Group, and it drove me to a broader realization about how high the cost of equity can be for a profitable company. We typically utilize debt when considering an acquisition, but if we're using equity, we’ll need a much higher rate of return in order for it to be a good use of capital.

Another aspect of the course I really appreciated was getting to hear from speakers such as a lawyer and an investment banker, who have done hundreds of M&As. They shared anecdotes of actual deals, their thought processes, and the outcomes. In addition, the other course participants made a lot of very valuable comments. It was a global, diverse group that had great experience and insight into real deals.

The big benefit to me of this course was the practicality of it — hearing about, and talking about, how we’re executing real-world agreements. I would give the course a 10 out of 10 and I highly recommend it.”

Ryan OttExecutive Vice President, The Ott Group; President, Ethos Biosciences

I absolutely loved the Mergers and Acquisitions program. It certainly exceeded my expectations. One of the things that I enjoyed most was the quality of the faculty. Obviously they’re top notch in the industry, but they are also really good at teaching and transmitting the message to the students. There are schools where you might be talking to a Nobel Prize winner who wrote all the books on the subject, but if they don't know how to teach, then the value is not there, in my opinion. I think Wharton really excelled with the faculty that delivered the different subjects of the M&A program. I take my hat off to all of them.

The negotiation session was remarkable. We got some hard dos and don’ts and good lecture material, as well as a chance to practice with different case studies. I also very much enjoyed the session on divestitures because it's what I have been working on over the last couple of years.

I really appreciated the fact that all the group sessions were broken out into different teams, which allowed everyone to meet each other. The mix of people was amazing: we had CEOs, CFOs, operations people, finance individuals, venture capitalists, lawyers. It was very enriching to speak with people from different industries, functional levels, and geographies. Another nice takeaway was the great network we all walked away with. We’ve established a group through WhatsApp and LinkedIn. I would enthusiastically recommend the course to people in the industry and in similar positions where they will touch any aspect of a merger, acquisition, or divestiture during their careers.”

Rodrigo Rodriguez-NovasFounder & CEO, NORDES Consulting

I am an equity partner at Harbourfront Wealth Management. I own a practice here as well and run a team out of Vancouver. For finance and business, Wharton is known as one of the best schools in the world. Both Warren Buffett and Elon Musk studied there. The reputation of the school and the quality of the professors really drew me to the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) program.

What resonated with me the most was Professor Richard Shell’s negotiation workshop. The tools and awareness have already made me a much more potent business leader. They say that you learn 20 percent from reading information and 80 percent from actually doing — Professor Shell has a great combination of classroom lectures and hands-on learning, simulations, and real-life case studies. The whole M&A program was like that. That’s such a better way to learn from a retention standpoint. Even though the material is advanced, you’re immersed in it.

In the negotiation workshop I was able to bring back a growth mindset and much more collaborative approach to how I do business deals. We’re in a very client-focused, client-centric business. It’s important to focus on both your client's bottom line and your business's bottom line as well. There’s so much potential for conflict of interest, so you definitely want to go in with a growth mindset, and I now understand the unlimited potential of having one. Sometimes in negotiation, people think win-lose, but having that collaborative growth mindset really showed me that there’s a better way to grow the pie for everyone. I would recommend Wharton’s M&A program, and I’m also planning to attend another course at Wharton, Professor Shell’s full-week Executive Negotiation Workshop."

Jeremy Reinbolt, CIMChartered Investment Manager and Investment Advisor, Harbourfront Wealth Management

Kent MatsumotoVice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary

Participant Kent Matsumoto on peer diversity

I lead a strategy and market intelligence consulting firm that serves the energy market in Calgary, Alberta. My focus is on helping my clients achieve their growth goals and targets. While I have been involved in helping to identify potential acquisition activity, my role hasn’t been as hands-on as I would like.

Wharton’s program was very helpful in helping me establish my own frameworks for how I might go about doing the integration of a merger or acquisition. It’s a very complex process — Wharton helped to simplify the complexity of this process using actual cases of M&A transactions. The value of Wharton’s program comes from the thought process, frameworks, and research provided on each of the M&A elements — strategic intent, valuation and modeling, negotiation, due diligence, and integration.

There is a healthy M&A market for the energy sector right now. And it will always be one of the ways companies choose to grow. Wharton has given me a much better grounding into this important growth strategy."

Nevine BoothPresident, OnPoint Research Group, a management consulting firm in Canada

I’m a lawyer by training, so taking Wharton’s Mergers and Acquisitions program gave me a refresher on business issues such as valuation of companies, which has served me well in my role managing a family office, which includes 20 family members. The most relevant part of the program for me was the full-day negotiation workshop — it gave me insights that I could apply right away since negotiation is a big part of my job. Sometimes you have to find common ground among family members and sometimes you have to negotiate with other advisers. It can be stressful if you don’t have a method to follow. I have recommended Wharton to other managers and financial advisers for family offices because I believe they can get a lot out of these programs."

Rafael EscalanteDirector of Batis Corporation Family Office Services, Mexico City

This is without question one of the best programs I have participated in during my career. I left Wharton with a totally new perspective on how to grow our organization and create value through M&A activities. I acquired a template on how to differentiate long-term ‘strategic’ growth from ‘value-destroying’ activities. I strongly recommend this program to any senior executive responsible for business development, as well as mergers and acquisitions, in any business enterprise."

John WamugiCEO and President, Finmetrics Technologies

Date, Location, & Fees

January 19 – 24, 2020Philadelphia, PA$14,370

June 14 – 19, 2020Philadelphia, PA$14,370

Download the program schedule, including session details.

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Fees for this program include accommodations and meals. Prices are subject to change.

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