Corporate takeovers—what is to be done?
ALMOST EVERY WEEK these last few years there has been a report of another “hostile takeover bid,” another stock market maneuver to take over, merge, or split up an existing publicly-held company against determined opposition by the company’s board of directors and management. No such wave of stock market speculation has hit the U.S. since the “bears” and the “bulls” of the 1870s, when the Goulds and the Drews and the Vanderbilts battled each other for control of American railroads. The new wave of hostile takeovers has already profoundly altered the contours and landmarks of the American economy. It has become a dominant force—many would say the dominant force—in the behavior and actions of American management, and, almost certainly, a major factor in the erosion of American competitive and technological leadership. Yet the papers usually report it only on the financial page. And very few people, outside of business, really quite know what goes on or, indeed, what a “hostile takeover” really is.