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Anticipating tensions between a buyer and an investment fund

Martine Story


Doctor DBA, Business Science Institute

(DBA-Dissertation, betreut von Prof. Barredy)



An MBI (Management Buy In) transaction is the acquisition of a company by a buyer outside the target company, within the framework of a leveraged buyout. There are less than 300 MBI transactions accompanied by investment funds each year in France.

  • What are the challenges for the buyer and the investment fund during an MBI transaction?

  • What are the potential tensions between the buyer and the investment fund during the constitution and the operation of the entrepreneur-investor dyad, within the framework of an MBI operation?

  • How to anticipate the emergence of these tensions?

Impacts of the research

We have designed several tools for the use of stakeholders, i.e. buyers, individuals wishing to initiate a company takeover project with an investment fund, and investment funds carrying out MBI operations, as well as their respective advisors:

  • A taxonomy of LBO funds (Leverage Buy Out) giving buyers a synthetic view of the typology of market players, thus enabling them to choose the financial partner best suited to their project.

  • A mapping of potential tensions between the buyer and the investment fund, according to their temporality and intensity.

  • A tool for predicting explicit tensions between the buyer and the investment fund. This predictability is broken down into 6 sequence plans.

  • A dynamic and preventive tool to measure potential tensions and the level of trust within the buyer-investment fund dyad.

For example, thanks to this last tool, an investment fund can anticipate the occurrence of conflicts and the deterioration of the level of trust during the duration of the operation. It is then able to take corrective action to remedy these tensions and avoid irreversible deterioration of trust.

On the theoretical level, we have questioned the role of trust in the management of tensions between the buyer and the investment fund in the light of the theory of paradoxical tensions (Smith and Lewis, 2011). We have highlighted the importance of cognitive biases with regard to the tensions between the buyer and the investment fund and have revisited the theory of agency from the perspective of the potential tensions between the members of the dyad.

Foundations of the research

Our review of the literature was conducted from the perspective of the issues specific to each of the actors, the buyer and the investment fund.

The paradoxical tension model developed by Smith and Lewis (2011), which reveals a dialogical logic of opposing poles (Thélissson, Meier, Missonier and Guieu, 2018) and a bipolarity of tensions (Brulhart, Grimand, Krohmer, Oiry and Ragaigne, 2018), is the prevailing theory in our research.


We have chosen an abductive approach, that of a back and forth between theory and field.

Our design is qualitative and the methodology used is that of case studies of investor-takeover dyads.

To do this, we conducted 15 in-depth interviews with LBO buyers and investment funds, 5 expert interviews with investment funds that had carried out an MBI operation that was counterproductive in terms of value creation or that ended in failure, and 2 expert interviews with professionals involved in the MBI process, in this case a business lawyer and a recruitment and evaluation specialist.

These interviews were preceded by 50 exploratory interviews with individual buyers at the beginning of their buyout journey. The qualitative analysis of the interviews was entrusted to the teams of the SPHINX laboratory and carried out by the SPHINX IQ2 software. It gave rise to a lexical and semantic overview, as well as a manual content analysis.

The Professors' opinion

On the substance, Ms. Story-Lamarque has managed to conduct a clearly justified research process, with a strong anchoring in the field. The work contributes to the literature on entrepreneurship by proposing a reading of a particular case of takeover by a natural person, the takeover accompanied financially by an investment fund (Prof. Deschamps, rapporteur).

The proposed tool is interesting and Professor Barrédy hopes that this experience of research work carried out by Mrs. Story-Lamarque will allow her to remember in her practice the interest of doubt, theory and academic work (Prof. Barredy, thesis supervisor).

To go further

Article translated from French with


Presentation of the article in video, by Martine Story-Lamarque


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