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Ed Breen focuses on numbers

Ed Breen focuses on numbers

DuPont chairman has overseen at least $214 billion of mergers and acquisitions during his career.

By Ben Scent

Ed Breen may be responsible for more dealmaking dollars than almost any other executive alive today.

The 63-year-old DuPont de Nemours Inc. chairman has overseen at least $214 billion of mergers and acquisitions during his career, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. His slicing and dicing has earned fees for over a dozen investment banks, from Evercore Inc. to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and he shows no signs of stopping: DuPont is pursuing divestitures of at least three more units.

Breen’s M&A drive dates back to the turn of the century, when he sold set-top box maker General Instrument Corp. to Motorola Inc. He cemented his mark on the dealmaking scene as CEO of Tyco International Ltd., overseeing the breakup of the notoriously acquisitive conglomerate.

More recently, he led DuPont Co. to merge with Dow Chemical Co. and create the world’s biggest chemical company, then started carving it up almost immediately by spinning off its agriculture and material science divisions.

BloombergChart showing banks Breen worked with

DuPont reached a $26.2 billion deal in December to combine its nutrition unit with International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. Now DuPont is exploring a divestiture of its electronics business, estimated to be worth upwards of $10 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is also reviving preparations for the sale of a $1 billion chemical films joint venture, Bloomberg News reported last week, and has been reviewing options for its transportation and industrial unit.

Evercore, the boutique investment bank started by Roger Altman, has benefited the most from this string of M&A. It has advised companies run by Breen on at least six deals valued at a combined $176 billion, the Bloomberg data show. Goldman Sachs has done at least nine deals totaling $171 billion for Breen over the past couple decades.

Bloomberggraph showing deals Breen has made in his career

Breen’s relentless focus on numbers has triggered many of his divestments. He has executives track metrics for every part of a company’s operations, measuring things like cost ratios, return on invested capital and factory efficiency. If they can’t get a business to the desired level, Breen will consider letting it go without sentimentality.

His methods haven’t changed from the days when he ran Tyco, Breen said at a conference last year. The question is very simple, according to Breen: Can you add more value doing something else?

“We’re not going to let ego stand in the way. We want to do the right thing,” Breen said last May. “If there really is a path that creates significant value for shareholders by doing some other transaction, we would definitely look at it.”

--With assistance from Andrew Noël, Richard Clough, Liana Baker, Nabila Ahmed and Brendan Case.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Ben Scent in London at bscent@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Aaron Kirchfeld at akirchfeld@bloomberg.net
Ben Scent, Michael Hytha
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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