Before we hear about the latest M&A, joint venture, IPO or fundraising deal in the news, every transaction is clouded in secrecy. So much so that a special code name is used when referring to each deal.
For some investment bankers and corporate lawyers, naming the deal is the best part about working on it.
We couldn’t possibly comment.
Places, nature and space inspire the majority of the M&A deal code names. Often related to feelings of power, success and importance - from the sun to locations that symbolise victory.
Now though, having studied 1,000 deals from the many more that have used EthosData’s virtual data rooms in the past 10 years, we can reveal the most popular topics behind these code names in our first annual review.
Places, Nature and Space On Top
When it comes to naming a project we’ve found that places, nature and space inspire the majority of deal code names. From nearby buildings or mountains, to flowers, precious stones, and planets, dealmakers clearly get excited about getting out of the office and going travelling with their deal names.
Other popular sources for names include animals, colours, mythology and - for perhaps the less-concerned dealmakers amongst the group - any word starting with the letter ‘A’. At least they’ll find it quickly when they search for it.
Who Chooses Mountains? Who Goes For Birds? Who Likes Gods?
Unsurprisingly the names picked from the aforementioned categories often related to feelings of power, success and importance - from the sun to locations that symbolise victory.
More specifically, in Latin America and Asia-Pacific we saw that if a place name was used it would always be a given country’s local mountain, river or animal. The wider, and more exotic, range of places and animals in these regions certainly helps.
While Argentinian dealmakers can draw inspiration from interesting local animals such as Pink Fairy Armadillos, Patagonian Seahorses or Guanacos, those in the UK are stuck with the slightly less flamboyant squirrel, rabbit or Daddy Long Legs.
In North America, Canada and Western Europe, bankers and lawyers frequently turned to birds - likely a nod to the number of military operations that have previously used ‘eagle’, ‘vulture’, ‘falcon’ and ‘pelican’ - as well as Greek gods and heroes for naming inspiration.
Teachers across the world will be relieved something went into those brains when we were younger. Colours also featured prominently in names. As expected, blue and green - symbols of trust and growth respectively - were among the favoured ones... No 50 shades of grey here.
And What of Specific Names?
Bringing all of this together, you won’t be shocked to learn that the most common names used in project names are:
Apollo, Blue, Sun, Victory, Galaxy, Sunflower, Omega, Jasmine, Emerald, Sunrise, Sapphire, Aurora and Falcon.
That list may sound like a who’s who of team names from The Apprentice but these code names were certainly recognised by a CEO we spoke to who laughed after she heard the list.
“We’ve used all of those before! We try not to spend too long thinking of a project name but they are important. Our team is going to work on this deal for a good few weeks so we don’t want something that’s complicated to spell or say. It’s why we rarely use classical music composers!”
“Where possible we want everyone to enjoy the thought of the deal when they hear its name. I once saw a deal that was called ‘Turnips’. It hardly instilled a sense of excitement, or confidence in the deal team for that matter.”
26% of Dealmakers Feeling Uninspired
Not everyone is drawn by the promise of new frontiers or success though. More than a quarter of deals we looked at were named after the company involved or an acronym of the company.
One dealmaker we spoke to said they have named so many deals in the past that no one in the office can come up with something new. Now all they do is put the first two letters together of all the companies involved in the deal, and then add the date the deal starts on at the end of those letters.
The most common M&A deal names are: Apollo, Blue, Sun, Victory, Galaxy, Sunflower, Omega, Jasmine, Emerald, Sunrise, Sapphire, Aurora and Falcon.
The EthosData View
Having spent a number of years on the other side of the table as an investment banker and founder, we asked our CEO Francisco Lorca about his favourite ‘deal naming moment’. This is what he had to say.
“On an M&A deal I worked on, the CEO of the company being bought wanted to call the deal ‘FWAD’. Everyone was confused and spent a good ten minutes searching for the acronym online... It later transpired that it stood for ‘Finally, we are done.’ Suffice to say we didn’t end up going for that code name!”
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