Panelists Discuss M&A at Two Ten HR Summit

When navigating a merger or acquisition, communication is key.

That was one of the central themes during the panel discussion at Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s Human Resources Leadership Summit, which took place in New York on Tuesday. Participants included Lynne Macfarlane, Jones Group SVP of human resources; Peggy Reilly Tharp, VP of investor relations at Brown Shoe Co.; and Marc Berger, VP and publisher at Fairchild Fashion Media.

“Communication across the board is very important,” Brown Shoe’s Tharp said. “HR needs to be savvy enough to communicate to the [employees] acquired how things are going to change.” Tharp added that company officials should also cooperate with other parties who could be affected by the situation, such as investors, suppliers and landlords.

Macfarlane cited her firm’s recent acquisition of Brian Atwood as an example of speedy communication. According to the exec, Jones had been in talks with 20 or so members of Atwood’s team weeks before the deal was officially announced on Monday.

“Brian wanted this deal and his people wanted this deal, so it made the process a lot more manageable,” Macfarlane said. Offices for the new Brian Atwood employees have already been set up at Jones’ New York headquarters, and a store manager is also in place for the Brian Atwood flagship store, set to on Madison Avenue in New York.

Macfarlane added that Jones’ prior ownership of the B by Brian Atwood line helped make the transition even easier.

For his part, Berger said compatibility between two corporate cultures is crucial during a merger or acquisition. “At the end of the day, it’s about employees and whether or not the values of the company fit,” he said. 

Aside from unifying two different sets of employees, Tharp added that the main driver of an M&A deal is to add something new to a company’s portfolio.

“[M&A] is all about filling in a gap in a portfolio,” Tharp said. “Whatever the deal is, it has to be accretive to that company.”

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