Killer acquisitions


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Publishing details

Social Sciences Research Network

Authors / Editors

Cunningham C M; Ederer F; Ma S

Publication Year



This paper argues incumbent firms may acquire innovative targets solely to discontinue the target's innovation projects and preempt future competition. We call such acquisitions "killer acquisitions." We develop a model illustrating this phenomenon. Using pharmaceutical industry data, we show that acquired drug projects are less likely to be developed when they overlap with the acquirer's existing product portfolio, especially when the acquirer's market power is large due to weak competition or distant patent expiration. Conservative estimates indicate 5.3 percent to 7.4 percent of acquisitions in our sample are killer acquisitions. These acquisitions disproportionately occur just below thresholds for antitrust scrutiny.


Innovation; Mergers and Acquisitions; Drug development; Competition

Series Number



Social Sciences Research Network