Atlas Network – In Argentina, one case of a merger success is the Libertad y Progreso Foundation (L&P). This organization emerged in May 2011 as a result of the merger of three others: 1) Republican Forum led by Agustín Etchebarne, 2) Market Research Center of Argentina (CIIMA, for its Spanish initials) led by Aldo Abram, and 3) Center for Future Argentine Studies led by Manuel Solanet.
To analyze why the L&P merger was successful, it is important to understand the context in which it occurred. And the context was not the most encouraging one. Manuel Solanet summed it up very well by saying that “the country suffered the consequences of a populist, authoritarian, statist and highly interventionist government.” And Agustín Etchebarne added that the government “had been strongly deteriorating institutional quality.” Thus, the three directors decided to stop working separately, and they founded L&P.
The merger had many positive outcomes and practically no negative ones. The most positive aspect stemmed from the belief that, working together, there would be much more potential for impact than working separately. Manuel Solanet stressed that “each of the merged entities were focused on different angles of the economy and politics,” which meant that they complemented each other. As for negative aspects, the three interviewed leaders responded in tune that they found it difficult to find any. The relationship between them was and still is very good, and any difficulties that arose were quickly resolved.
With a basis of good relations, the other great asset of the merger was culture. Once it was decided to carry out the merger, the starting point was that culture and ideals coincide. Then, the rest is flexible. But there were two other important aspects that were needed to be successful: communications and fundraising.
The three directors are unanimous in their belief that the role of communications was one of the most important things for the L&P Foundation. Solanet stressed that communications is not only important in the life of the foundation, but also in its launch: “True, the key is the cultural battle, but communication also serves to achieve the first objective.” Similarly, Aldo Abram pointed out that most of the resources were initially allocated to this area.
Regarding fundraising, it was very important for L&P Foundation, especially since it was going to confront the government. Many people were afraid of giving money because of this confrontation with the government. The majority of contributors came not from big businessmen, but from individuals, successful professionals, and SMEs. This generated very diversified funding. Nobody provides more than 3% (with few exceptions) of the total budget. A very interesting point was highlighted by Manuel Solanet: “I had managed to form a foundation approved by all the requirements of the law and, in addition, had obtained tax exemption for donors. This meant that people who donated could deduct it from their income tax balance (within limits, of course), but it was a great attraction.”
When asking the directors for their best advice for other similar organizations planning to merge, the answer was practically the same for each of them: “You have to share values and ideals.” When these are shared, then objectives are more likely to be the same. A great advantage of sharing the same objectives is that delegating is easier. In short, it is easier to trust one another, and knowing that you can trust the people you’re merging with is extremely important.
It has been eight years since the merger took place, and by all accounts, it has been a resounding success. To a greater or lesser extent, the three directors are satisfied with the merger and the objectives achieved. For Etchebarne, “long-term objectives are very ambitious, but we are on the right track. We are growing not too fast, but that is what we decided to do. We are every year better than the previous one despite the crises.” In economic terms, the Foundation has also grown. Etchebarne concludes that in a country where mergers are difficult and crises are recurrent, “we are going to leave an institution that outlasts us, that survives us; we are going to prove that there is really a group of capable people who continue to drive forward.”
Augustin Etchebarne – General Director
Agustin is an economist specializing in Economic Development, Strategic Marketing, and International Markets.
Aldo Abram – Executive Director
Aldo holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Sciences from CEMA and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the UBA. He is Executive Director of the “Libertad y Progreso” Foundation, and economic and financial advisor to companies, banks, and intermediate entities.
Manuel Solanet– Public Policy Director
Manuel is a Civil Engineer with post-graduate studies in Economics and is currently President of the National Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. He has been Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary for the Modernization.
By Ivan Cachanosky