European acquisitions in the United States: re-examining Olivetti-Underwood fifty years later
While Italy's catch-up in the course of the 20th century has been nothing short of extraordinary, it has failed to produce a large number of global business players. Nonetheless, half a century ago an Italian company concluded what was at the time the largest-ever foreign takeover of a US company. The paper analyzes the Olivetti's acquisition of Underwood and frames it in the broader picture of the literature on the management and performance of foreign companies in the United States. We provide a historical narrative focused on three main issues: 1) head office control and subsidiary autonomy; 2) Olivetti's adaptation to the American business system; 3) the development of internal knowledge resources within the subsidiary. Lessons and implications are relevant for business historians and management scholars in general.
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