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Andrew Ross Sorkin, of the NYT, has a story (sub required) about how most mergers don’t make sense. It is a story that needs coming back to every few years, as people seem to forget the lesson.

This latest Silicon Valley example, of Symantec’s $13.5 billion acquisition of Veritas Software last year amid an avalanche of criticism, is a good example. As usual, it is the bankers who are pushing these deals, and it is no surprise because they get a huge chunk of cash, in the form of a percentage fee. This time, it was Goldman and Lehman Bro’s who advised the deal would be a good one.

John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec, insisted to analysts that the deal made “eminent sense.” Gary L. Bloom, the chairman of Veritas, went on the offensive too, with a variation of the same stump speech.

Both men, of course, have been eminently wrong. Symantec’s…



shares are worth only 54 percent what they were before word of the deal spread. Veritas, which as the seller was supposed to receive some sort of premium, has also left its shareholders shockingly underwater; if they had kept their shares in the combined company, the value of their holdings would be down 21 percent.

But not everyone is crying in their Cheerios when they read the stock pages: Goldman Sachs, which advised Veritas to take this undeniable disaster of a deal, made off with $26.1 million, according to Dealogic, a firm that tracks industry data. Lehman Brothers, which told Symantec’s board members that the deal was a brilliant idea, also pocketed an eight-figure fee for its handiwork.

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