Calling off a rushed deal

Mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace in the U.S. oil business during the past few years, but the drama that unfolded last week as Occidental Petroleum and Diamond Shamrock first announced, then canceled, a $3.3 billion marriage was one of a kind. Negotiated in a rush, then abandoned, the deal hurt both companies, leaving each vulnerable to a takeover.

At a meeting in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Occidental Chairman Armand Hammer, 86, and Diamond Shamrock Chairman William Bricker, 52, were discussing Bricker's plans to take over a third oil firm when they began exploring a merger of their companies. As...

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