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Developing a Strategy - MSF students explore M&A in inaugural case competition

Eric Nelson

05-14-2024

In an era dominated by streaming platforms, legacy media companies like Walt Disney are facing unprecedented challenges to remain competitive. As more traditional forms of media consumption continue to decline, these companies must explore strategic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to stay relevant and maintain market share.

With this rapidly evolving landscape as the backdrop, the inaugural Master of Science in Finance (MSF) Case Competition at Purdue’s Daniels School of Business centered around developing an acquisition, divestiture or partnership plan for Disney to navigate these changing market conditions.

Advising Disney on future mergers and acquisitions

 The case scenario required teams from four of the most esteemed Big Ten universities in the Midwest — Purdue’s Daniels School, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Gies College of Business and University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business — to present the current state of the media industry, highlighting the disruptive impact of streaming platforms on traditional media companies. Participants devised strategies tailored to Disney’s unique strengths and market position, specifically identifying a potential acquisition or sale of a business segment or a partnership that could potentially revert the company’s declining prominence in media consumption.

“Selecting M&A as the central theme for competition offered numerous benefits,” says Fabrício d’Almeida, clinical assistant professor and academic director of the MSF program. “By exploring the complexities of these deals, students gained valuable insights across various finance domains: corporate finance, governance, trading, strategy and regulatory matters. Opting for Disney as the focal company for teams to devise strategic plans was essential in today’s dynamic business arena. The company’s recent involvement in a major proxy battle for control between activist investors and its board underscores its relevance. This contemporary context furnished teams with high-quality data, analyses and expert opinions from trusted financial sources.”

During the first round, teams pitched potential target companies for acquisition, applying their financial expertise and analysis before a panel of industry experts. In a second round, the winning team from each university advanced to compete for the top prize. In addition to their plan’s strategic sense, winning teams were selected based on their ability to change the course of the current situation and pass antitrust review.

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Teams were judged by panel of industry experts who evaluated them on the clarity of their strategic plan, feasibility of proposed action, financial modeling and overall presentation effectiveness.

Testing knowledge, modeling and strategic thinking skills

“The experience yielded invaluable insights and takeaways that will undoubtedly shape our future endeavors in the finance industry,” says Mehri Aliyeva, whose team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign took second place. “Through rigorous preparation and participation, we honed our financial modeling abilities, strategic thinking and presentation skills. Analyzing complex M&A scenarios and pitching potential acquisition targets provided us with practical exposure to real-world deal-making dynamics, enriching our understanding of corporate finance principles.

“Additionally, the opportunity to network with industry experts and receive feedback from seasoned professionals has broadened our perspectives and strengthened our professional network, paving the way for future opportunities and growth.”

MSF student Linkin Liu was among the competitors from the Daniels School. "To me, the competition was a way to test my knowledge and a chance to represent Purdue to compete against other top-tier business schools,” says Liu. “I was able to solidify the foundation of my M&A learnings and experience what it’s like for an actual analyst to come up with new ideas instead of just following case studies. This experience will be very helpful to my future career as it raised my analytical and presentation skills to a new level.”

Integrating ideas for interdisciplinary excellence

In addition to the competition, the event featured insightful seminars led by experienced professionals on the intricacies of mergers and acquisitions, further enhancing the educational aspect of the competition.

“The theme of aligned closely with our curriculum by integrating critical topics covered in various courses,” says d’Almeida. “While we offer a specific course in M&A, it’s essential to highlight its interconnectedness with other areas. For instance, concepts such as value creation are not only addressed in M&A, but also in courses like Accounting, Valuation, Financial Management and Advanced Corporate Finance. This interdisciplinary approach ensures that students gain a comprehensive understanding of M&A transactions within the broader context of finance education.”

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“Institutions can leverage their combined resources to provide students with access to cutting-edge technology, industry connections and real-world datasets, enhancing the quality and relevance of the educational experience.” — Fabrício d’Almeida, Clinical Assistant Professor and Academic Director of the MSF Program

As an annual event, the competition welcomes interested sponsors and partner companies to explore exclusive opportunities that can significantly benefit their organizations.

Partnering with institutions, networking to open doors

“Institutions collaborating on ventures like a case competition invest their time, effort and finances well,” says d’Almeida. “First, a competition for graduate students facilitates a robust exchange of knowledge and expertise. Each institution brings unique perspectives, experiences and best practices, enriching the overall learning experience for students and faculty involved. This cross-pollination of ideas fosters innovation and encourages fresh approaches to problem-solving.”

Partnering also allows for the efficient sharing of resources. “Whether it’s financial, intellectual capital or logistical support, pooling these assets amplifies the impact of initiatives like case competitions,” says d’Almeida. “Institutions can leverage their combined resources to provide students with access to cutting-edge technology, industry connections and real-world datasets, enhancing the quality and relevance of the educational experience.”

In addition, collaborative ventures offer unparalleled networking opportunities. “Partnerships create expansive networks beyond individual campuses by bringing together students, faculty, and industry professionals from multiple institutions,” says d’Almeida. “These connections facilitate peer learning and mentorship and open doors to internships, job opportunities, and professional development activities, ultimately enhancing students’ career prospects. From the company’s perspective, it is a unique opportunity to tap into a highly selective pool of candidates.”

For more information on how your company can participate, contact d’Almeida at fdalmeid@purdue.edu.

If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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