Getting to know each other: The role of toeholds in acquisitions

Paul Povel*, Giorgo Sertsios

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We analyze the role of toeholds (non-controlling but significant equity stakes) as a source of information for a bidder. A toehold provides an opportunity to interact with the target and its management and in the process get a better sense of the possible synergies from a merger or takeover. A bidder considering taking over a target will take a toehold beforehand if the informational benefits are large. Our model makes the following predictions: (i) a toehold is more beneficial if a target is opaque, i.e., if it is generally harder to value potential synergies with the target; (ii) a toehold is incrementally more beneficial if a bidder initially finds it harder than others to assess the value of potential synergies; (iii) that incremental benefit is less important, however, if the target is opaque; and (iv) the benefits from having a toehold are smaller if the number of potential rival bidders is higher. We test these predictions using a large sample of majority acquisitions of private and public companies for which we have information regarding whether the acquirer had a toehold in the target company prior to the majority acquisition. We find evidence consistent with our hypotheses, and thus with the idea that potential acquirers of a target use toeholds to improve their information about possible synergies with the target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-224
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Corporate Finance
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank an anonymous referee, Audra Boone, Harold Mulherin, Gordon Phillips, Raj Singh, and seminar participants at the University of Houston, York University, University of Texas Austin and Rice University for helpful comments. Sertsios gratefully acknowledges the financial support of FONDECYT Iniciación (project/folio 11130073 ).


  • Auctions
  • Mergers & acquisitions
  • Takeovers
  • Toeholds


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