Leader – Merger needs the right team

Yesterday, the final hurdle standing before the planned merger between Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse was due to be swept away, as the European Commission officially blessed the marriage.

It leaves the firms in a nerve-jangling situation. Now the talking must stop and the firms must merge by 1 July.

And it is not just a question of putting up new signs outside the front doors. Behind the scenes, partners are scrambling to secure their positions within the new structure. It is not a pleasant sight as local rivalries come into play, seen most recently and publicly in Spain, and doubtless one being repeated around the world.

It shows that, with just six weeks to go until the new business is launched in a blaze of global publicity, there are still problems within the two firms – even though it provides Coopers and PW with the opportunity to become the world’s number one business adviser.

Teething problems they may be, but getting those appointments right is the key to success. Never mind the inevitable debate over the structure’s name; squabbling over titles and making wrong appointments threatens a loss of focus and long-term damage.

There can only be one head of each division. Get that right, and Big Six rivals will be looking for a way to catch up. Get it wrong, and we could see some angry partners, followed by major fallout.

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