The 10 biggest tech mergers in history almost all had terrible endings

Michael dell joe tucci emcDellEMC CEO Joe Tucci (left) shakes hands with Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell (right)

The world is still reeling from the news that Dell is planning to acquire EMC for $US67 billion — the biggest pure-technology merger of all time, and one of the biggest tech deals ever.

But before Dell executives break out the champagne, it might be time to take a walk down memory lane, and remember the ghosts of mergers past.

Spoiler alert: Of the ten biggest tech mergers of all time, only a few have happy endings.

The rest resulted in depressed share prices, corporate confusion, and layoffs.

Oracle is actually pretty good at acquisitions: When it acquired BEA for $7.9 billion in January 2008, Oracle got the WebLogic software that still powers its Fusion Middleware product for developers to this day.

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Compaq snapped up Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a company that had been making computer servers since the 1960's, for $9.6 billion in 1998. DEC was slow to recognise that the PC industry was taking off. By the time of the acquisition, DEC was a stagnating company with high operating costs and few desirable products -- problems that Compaq inherited after the merger.

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The road to Oracle's $10.3 billion acquisition of HR software provider PeopleSoft was fraught with drama. Oracle made two hostile takeover bids that were declined, before the US Department of Justice stepped in with antitrust concerns. Finally, in November 2004 the deal closed -- and PeopleSoft still a part of Oracle's product portfolio today.

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Electronic Data Services, or EDS, was founded in 1962 by businessman and former US Presidential candidate Ross Perot. HP bought it in July 2008 for $13.9 billion to form the cornerstone of its HP Enterprise Services unit -- which has suffered regular layoffs since the deal closed, with another round reportedly coming up.

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In June 2000, right at the crescendo of the dot-com boom, optical technology company JDS Uniphase bought E-Tek Dynamics, which made optical networking components, for $15 billion. Like a lot of other companies of that era, JDS Uniphase was hit hard after the bubble burst, but stuck around until it broke into two, smaller companies just this past summer.


Here's another relic of the dot-com era. In March 2000, email security company Verisign bought domain registrar Network Solutions for $20.8 billion. Network Solutions didn't only sell domain names -- it was also the body in charge of overseeing the .com, .net, and .org TLDs. But it ended up having to sell off its domain name registration service in the wake of charges that it violated the Securities Act.

JDS Uniphase was a merger machine. In July 2000, right after the E-Tek deal, it also bought component-maker SDL for $41 billion.


The big one. In January 2000, AOL bought Time Warner for $181.6 billion in a move that was supposed to establish the Internet service provider as a media giant. That never happened, and in 2009, Time Warner spun AOL back off as an independent company.

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