Continued from page 37 “From the very beginning, identify who within the acquiring company will be the sponsor or champion of the alliance,” said Twait. “Identify those [executives] during the due diligence phase.” If the alliance management team has successfully identified the right alliance champions, these executives should be involved long after the initial transition and throughout the governance of the alliance.
…with the right attitude, alliance professionals are just the people to handle the flux that comes with an acquisition. Accelerate Talks After the Deal’s Completion Once the transaction goes through, the dialogue must pick up the pace immediately, with all levels of executives from the acquiring company calling their counterparts in their new partner—from the CEO to high-ranking senior management officials to alliance managers. “It can be very comforting to the partner when you speak. ‘Here’s the news coming out, here’s what we see the impact is on the collaboration, do you have any questions or concerns based on this new news.’ Partners hate to be blindsided,” said Christine Carberry, CSAP, former vice president of program and alliance management at Weston, Mass.–based Biogen Idec, who also was involved in the merger of Biogen with Idec. “Make sure they know it’s not a secret program, it’s a collaborative program. Surface what the concerns are of the new partner. Make sure our new partner understands how focused we are in making sure the alliance is going to work even in light of the change,” said Daly.
Apply Core Alliance Management Skills to Weather Change Of course, if the two companies utilize alliance management best practices, they probably already have the skills to create an open environment in which alliance professionals can build trust. In fact, Twait feels an acquisition is not that much different from some of the changes your average alliance encounters throughout its lifecycle. Often, biopharma companies need to relaunch or restart an alliance when a drug reaches the next stage or when
key personnel leave to pursue other opportunities. Lilly utilized these skills of openness after it had acquired ImClone to maintain the latter’s fruitful partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb. “We brought ImClone folks working on the team, Bristol folks, and Lilly folks all together,” Twait explained. “We utilized our alliance management start-up process to get Lilly’s expectations on the table as well as Bristol’s. This allows you to make sure expectations are shared, think about goal setting and where we want the alliance to go.” Besides, biopharma alliances often have to last a decade or more, so pharmaceutical and biotech companies are used to dramatic change over the course of alliance agreements. Carberry feels with the right attitude, alliance professionals are just the people to handle the flux that comes with an acquisition. “Embrace being on a continuum and take a longer-term perspective on the relationship. Recognize you created the relationship thinking you were better off creating this relationship than not—some capability or capacity, a product, whatever it is—and you both feel there’s more value that can be created together.”
Acknowledge When an Alliance Cannot Survive the Transaction Of course, there are going to be times when moving the alliance forward is not the best option for one or more partners. “One thing I think biopharmaceutical companies are not particularly good at doing is thinking about exit strategies,” said Carberry. Nevertheless, the end could come immediately if the acquiring company already has a better version of the capability or product being handled by the acquired company’s alliance. “The reason we’re collaborating is to stay focused in this disease area together. If you no longer feel that you can do that—that’s tough but it’s fair—what we need to do is figure out how to unwind the collaboration in a way that works for both sides,” said Daly. In the end, consolidations are just another external force alliance managers need to deal with. The good news is that they already should have the requisite capabilities to take control of the situation. n
Strategic Alliance Magazine
The magazine of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals