Joint Venture Board Attendance: Two’s Company, Thirty’s a Crowd

By Joshua Kwicinski | Tuesday, September 25, 2018

JV BOARD1 MEETINGS are the beating heart of joint venture governance. A mélange of disparate JV owner and, management wants and needs are cast into a quarterly session that shapes the future direction of the business. Structured well, a board meeting promotes candor among Directors, enables discussions on challenging strategic issues, and allows for collective decision-making in a timely fashion.

Now imagine walking into the Board meeting and seeing not only your fellow JV Directors and the JV CEO, but also the rest of the JV management team plus a dozen other faces from across the owner organization. What was expected to be an intimate session to tackle sensitive topics suddenly takes on a very different atmosphere. Candor is replaced by caution, real discussions are hard to hold, and conversations veer from strategic to tactical as the additional shareholder participants pepper JV Management with comments and questions to resolve their own issues. Decision-making and good governance suffer accordingly.

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Small Joint Venture Portfolios, Big Consequences

By James Bamford | Tuesday, September 18, 2018

HUNDREDS OF companies across scores of countries have formed three or more new joint ventures in the last decade (Exhibit 1).  The JV portfolios of some of these companies like ExxonMobil, DowDupont, and Vodafone – are enormous, representing a material portion of the company’s assets, revenue, or income. But in other companies such as Renault, Alcatel-Lucent, and Amyris, the portfolios are much smaller, often containing no more than 3 to 15 JVs. Not only are these portfolios small, but they are often a motley lot – with individual ventures scattered around the world, scoped and structured in very different ways, and governed on a one-off basis by local business unit leaders (Exhibit 2).

How should such a company think about small JV portfolio governance? 

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When a JV Must Do an (Uneven) Deal with its Parent Companies

By James Bamford | Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BECAUSE MANY JVs are closely related to – or even directly connected with – parent company businesses, opportunities often emerge for the JV to create value by working with the parents in new and uneven ways. This might mean developing new products, functionality, or technologies favored by one parent. It might mean allowing the JV to enter markets where one parent company already has a competitive presence. It might mean having the JV consolidate certain functions or
assets with one parent company in order to reduce costs or avoid future capital investments (Exhibit 1).

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Board Ballet: Choreographing the Joint Venture Board Agenda

By James Bamford | Tuesday, August 21, 2018

FOR BETTER OR WORSE, the vast majority of time and attention that JV Board Directors spend thinking about the business or asset happens within the narrow confines of Board and committee meetings. As a result, orchestrating the Board’s annual agenda is a critical tool for JV Chairs and CEOs to engage, energize, and get value out of the Board.

But this valuable time isn’t always optimized. Many Board members tell us that their meetings suffer from disorganization that seriously limits the effectiveness of their time (Exhibit 1). What’s worse is that all too often, near-term items like performance reporting, operations, budget, and other routine matters take up close to 50% of the average JV Board meeting, crowding out important issues like strategy, talent, and self-governance – if they’re even addressed at all (Exhibit 2). Similarly, not enough thought is given to the mix of time – the amount of time spent in full-Board meetings vs. breakouts, and the split between decision vs. discussion time, or formal vs. informal interactions.  

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Report from the JV CEO Roundtable: The Questions CEOs Ask Their Peers

By Peter Daniel | Tuesday, August 14, 2018

WATER STREET PARTNERS recently hosted our 8th annual JV CEO Roundtable at our offices in Washington, DC. We are privileged to regularly convene the world’s only network of JV leaders and felt especially so this year because we are celebrating our ten-year anniversary. We count a few of the participating CEOs among our earliest clients and are humbled by both their ongoing support and willingness to share their deep experience with others in the network.

Fifteen executives from 14 JV companies attended the Roundtable. Collectively, these JV companies employ over 10,000 people and generate billions of dollars in annual revenues. Their shareholders, including Boeing, Humana, IQVIA, Chevron, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of America, Shell Oil Company, Walgreens, Pitney Bowes, Continental AG, are some of the largest and best-known companies in the world. An important part of the job for the 15 executives in the room is figuring out how to leverage the strengths of their companies’ shareholders while managing the “tax” imposed when shareholders are not perfectly aligned on their vision for the JV.

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The Joint Venture Operating Model Blueprint

By James Bamford | Tuesday, July 31, 2018
PERHAPS NO OTHER aspect of joint ventures has caused so much trouble as an ill-defined, outdated, or inappropriate
operating model.

In a general sense, an operating model is a high-level architecture of the organization – how the various structures, systems, processes, and people within the enterprise relate to each other to deliver the strategy. In JVs, the operating model is defined by the venture’s overall level of independence from – or dependence on – its shareholders ( Exhibit 1). Some joint ventures, like Dow Corning, Aera Energy, and Sony Ericsson, are highly independent. Others, including most upstream oil, gas and mining JVs, are operated by one partner.
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