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Portfolio Restructuring and Limits to Hierarchical Governance: The Effects of Environmental Uncertainty and Diversification Strategy


  • Donald D. Bergh

    (The Pennsylvania State University, The Smeal College of Business Administration, 413 Beam Business Administration Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802)

  • Michael W. Lawless

    (Duke University, Fuqua School of Business, Durham, North Carolina 27708)


The authors test whether acquisitions and divestitures are related to environmental uncertainty and diversification strategy. Drawing from transaction cost economics, they predicted that increases in environmental uncertainty would reduce a company's ability to manage its subsidiaries efficiently and would lead to divestiture. Conversely, they predicted that decreases in environmental uncertainty would enable a company to manage its subsidiaries more efficiently and would lead to acquisition. Those predictions were expected to be strongest for firms with intermediate levels of diversification, as such firms are believed to be the most difficult to manage efficiently. Repeated measures analyses of a panel of 164 Fortune 500 companies supported the predictions for highly diversified firms (e.g., unrelated businesses) only. Less diversified firms reacted to increases in uncertainty by acquiring and to decreases in uncertainty by divesting. The results suggest that the relationship between diversification strategy and portfolio restructuring depends on environmental uncertainty. In addition, the study findings imply that there may be limits in the hierarchy's governance efficiency in relation to market modes and that those limits may be affected by environmental uncertainty and diversification strategy.

Suggested Citation

  • Donald D. Bergh & Michael W. Lawless, 1998. "Portfolio Restructuring and Limits to Hierarchical Governance: The Effects of Environmental Uncertainty and Diversification Strategy," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 9(1), pages 87-102, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:9:y:1998:i:1:p:87-102

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    Cited by:

    1. J. Myles Shaver & John M. Mezias, 2009. "Diseconomies of Managing in Acquisitions: Evidence from Civil Lawsuits," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 20(1), pages 206-222, February.
    2. M. Bensaou & Erin Anderson, 1999. "Buyer-Supplier Relations in Industrial Markets: When Do Buyers Risk Making Idiosyncratic Investments?," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 10(4), pages 460-481, August.
    3. repec:eee:advacc:v:30:y:2014:i:1:p:106-115 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:13:p:2579-2598 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Niron Hashai, 2015. "Within-industry diversification and firm performance—an S-shaped hypothesis," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(9), pages 1378-1400, September.
    6. Ulrike Mayrhoffer & Fabrice Roth, 1999. "Gestion de l'incertitude et influence de la diversification et de la nationalité sur les formes de rapprochement : une comparaison Allemagne, France et Royaume-Uni," Revue Finance Contrôle Stratégie,, vol. 2(4), pages 135-156, December.
    7. Tuukka Mäkitie & Håkon E. Normann & Taran M. Thune & Jakoba Sraml Gonzalez, 2018. "The green flings: market fluctuations and incumbent energy industries’ engagement in renewable energy," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20180524, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    8. Laura Gianfagna & Armando Rungi, 2017. "Does corporate control matter to financial volatility?," Working Papers 09/2017, IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, revised Nov 2017.
    9. Sucheta Nadkarni & Tianxu Chen & Jianhong Chen, 2016. "The clock is ticking! Executive temporal depth, industry velocity, and competitive aggressiveness," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(6), pages 1132-1153, June.
    10. Naga Lakshmi Damaraju & Jay B. Barney & Anil K. Makhija, 2015. "Real options in divestment alternatives," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(5), pages 728-744, May.
    11. repec:eee:jouret:v:89:y:2013:i:2:p:126-139 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:udc:esteco:v:44:y:2017:i:1:p:81-104 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Trushin, Eshref & Ugur, Mehmet, 2018. "Ecosystem complexity, firm learning and survival: UK evidence on intra-industry age and size diversity as exit hazards," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 19095, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    14. Gautam Ray & Dazhong Wu & Prabhudev Konana, 2009. "Competitive Environment and the Relationship Between IT and Vertical Integration," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 20(4), pages 585-603, December.
    15. repec:spr:manrev:v:68:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11301-018-0137-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Elena Vidal & Will Mitchell, 2015. "Adding by Subtracting: The Relationship Between Performance Feedback and Resource Reconfiguration Through Divestitures," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(4), pages 1101-1118, August.
    17. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:13:p:2647-2665 is not listed on IDEAS


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