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Network Synergy

J. Myles Shaver, Zeke Hernandez

Acquisitions can dramatically reshape interorganizational networks by combining previously separate nodes and allowing the acquirer to inherit the target’s ties, potentially creating network synergy. Network synergy is the extent to which combining an acquirer’s and a target’s networks through node collapse results in a more favorable structural position for the combined firm as the acquirer gains control of the target’s existing ties. We hypothesize that the likelihood  of selecting a target increases when the expected network synergy is greater. Using data from the biotechnology industry (1995–2007), we find support for this hypothesis by showing that acquirers prefer targets that generate greater expected increases in network status and greater expected access to structural holes—even when we control for other known sources of synergies. We further show that these effects are driven by complementary combinations of the acquirer’s and target’s networks that go beyond the attractiveness of the target’s network per se. By integrating the networks and acquisitions literatures, we introduce a novel source of synergies, provide evidence of a previously unexplored mechanism of network change, and show how firms can exert agency in the process of network change.

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