Andrew Kenny still remembers the smell of day-old pizza that lingered in the back of the Cairo conference room as negotiations between his then company, food processing giant ADM, and a future joint venture partner entered day five.
“Planting a flag in Egypt was extremely important for us because it was not just about having a presence there—it was about creating an entire supply chain and creating value for an asset base back in the U.S.,” explains Kenny, who tells us that the 5-day gathering was the culmination of 10 prior trips to Egypt and a burdensome due diligence process.
Still, at times, a positive outcome was in doubt.
“We were struggling to come to economic terms on the transaction,” recalls Kenny, who says that the developments that broke the stalemate ultimately had little to do with the happenings inside the conference room.
As the day-five negotiations dragged on, Kenny says, he would at times step out of the room with the Egyptian company’s CFO and co-owner to purposely redirect the discussion away from the pressure cooker of deal-making mechanics to other areas of shared interest, both personal and professional.
After 10 trips to Cairo, Kenny found that there was a willingness to reach a deal based on some of the relationships that had taken root over the lengthy due diligence process.
“We spent a lot of time exploring each other’s common concerns and life ambitions,” comments Kenny, who adds that stepping out of the conference room allowed the executives to change the mood and once more find common ground.
“On my first flight to Cairo, I was thinking like a finance person, but by the end of the experience, my mind-set had shifted and my thinking had become more commercial and relationship-based,” remembers Kenny, whose role would eventually grow to oversee ADM’s commercial business in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. –Jack Sweeney
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