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Packard and Perkin Elmer: The Art of an Acquisition

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Wayne Richardson, director of investor relations at Packard BioScience, had spent the weekend with his colleagues frenziedly preparing for the big moment Monday morning — they’d stayed up till 2:00 a.m. Sunday night getting the press release in shape to alert the world to PerkinElmer’s $650 million stock-for-stock acquisition of Packard.

And then, at 7:00 Monday morning, Richardson made what might have been his most important phone call. He’d noticed too late that the contact number listed on the press release was incorrect, and he dialed it. “I called her and said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to be called by a lot of investors and people,’” he recalls. The woman, who’d heard of Packard, saved the day by agreeing to give out the correct number.

The acquisition began three or four months ago when PerkinElmer approached Packard with an unsolicited offer, Richardson says. The company’s share price was good enough to prompt Packard to look into the offer. The period of due diligence showed that there was little overlap between the companies’ products, and the folks at Packard decided they liked the other firm’s management: “They were focusing on issues that have always been near and dear to our hearts as well,” Richardson says. “Once everybody was armed with all the information they needed, then they retreated to their boards.”

Both boards gave the go-ahead, and on Friday the 13th of July the deal was completed and signed. According to Richardson, the combined company should rank about third biggest in life sciences companies providing discovery tools (Packard has about 1,000 employees and sales in 60 countries, while PerkinElmer has operations in more than 125 countries and projected sales of $300 million in life sciences this year). PerkinElmer was most interested in Packard’s liquid-handling systems, while Packard gains by getting access to PerkinElmer’s reagents. “We see this as a dynamite combination,” says PerkinElmer life sciences president John Engel.

Breaking the news was the primary concern once the deal was signed. Late Friday, managers around the world were notified that they would have to be in Meriden, Conn., by Sunday night. The press release was finalized over the weekend and set to show up when the employees turned on their computers Monday morning. An hour later, they all attended a meeting with CEO Emery Olcott. Reaction ranged from surprise to excitement to concern, Richardson says, with questions from all sides. But since details are so sparse, there was no “major” reaction.

Richardson maintains that the deal was good for both companies. “The PerkinElmer share price, we believe, is somewhat undervalued at this point,” he says. “It could have more upside movement than ours.” The company’s confident enough to be magnanimous, at any rate. Richardson saw to it that the woman with the wrong phone number received flowers and a gift certificate from Packard.

— Meredith Salisbury

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