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1/5/2010
12:22 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Gartner Acquisition Binge An EU No-No?

Gartner's recent acquisitions of rival analyst firms AMR and Burton Group could come under the scrutiny of hypersensitive European Union anticompetition regulators who are terrified that the acquisitions will have some impact-good, bad, or indifferent; it doesn't really matter-on at least one European. Head EU bureaucrat Neelie Kroes has reportedly promised a decision by 2012.

Gartner's recent acquisitions of rival analyst firms AMR and Burton Group could come under the scrutiny of hypersensitive European Union anticompetition regulators who are terrified that the acquisitions will have some impact-good, bad, or indifferent; it doesn't really matter-on at least one European. Head EU bureaucrat Neelie Kroes has reportedly promised a decision by 2012.Okay, perhaps I've taken some liberties with the truth in that first sentence, but I swear that after covering the EU's hallucinogenic meanderings around the Oracle-Sun deal for the past four months, my fictions about how the Eurocrats might feel about Gartner's recent buying binge might not be so fantastical after all.

So in the interests of accuracy, here's what's fact and here's what's fantasy-but remember, where the EU and Neelie Kroes are concerned, the two can commingle without reason and without warning.

FACT: The Wall Street Journal has reported this morning that Gartner has acquired Burton for about $56 million.

FACT: The Journal article also referred to Gartner's earlier acquisition of AMR by saying, "A week before closing the Burton deal, Gartner paid $63 million for another research firm."

FACT: Gartner says Burton's focus on front-line IT professionals will complement Gartner's traditional emphasis on CIOs and other senior executives and "should enable us to offer a more complete solution to every level and functional expert within an IT organization," said Gartner CEO Gene Hall in the Journal article.

FACT: Gartner's business is global and its impact is global. AMR and Burton, while not having the global influence to match Gartner's, surely did some business in Europe.

FACT: Some clients of AMR and Burton in Europe will be affected by these rapid-fire acquisitions. As noted above, that influence might be good or it might be not so good. Gartner would say all benefits will be positive, but that's the same story Oracle offered to the EU and look how much good that did.

FANTASY: I can't say with 100% certainty that the members of the anticapitalist committee of the EU are "terrified." However, I suspect that even the idea-let alone the reality-of a single company acquiring two other companies in related fields in a short period of time would make their hearts go pitter-pat and inspire them to set a cooling-off period of 24 months to see what a blue-ribbon panel comes up with.

FANTASY: Kroes, as far as I know, hasn't even heard of the Gartner deals, and I made up the whole thing about her and her fellow tiddlywinkers needing two years to make a decision on those acquisitions. But once again, after seeing how they handled the Oracle-Sun situation-and that involved only one acquisition-I think the fantasy timetable is probably pretty accurate. As none other than Dan Rather said in his own defense, "Fake but accurate."

Good luck to Gartner with its new properties, good luck to the folks from AMR and Burton who've now got new owners, and most of all good luck to the EU bravehearts who keep the world safe from capitalist meanies.

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