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Student Distinctions

Notre Dame MBA takes first place in Maryland case competition

by Carol Elliott

November 2, 2010

Business Chart

The winning team of Notre Dame MBA students pose with representatives from competition sponsor Thomson Reuters include, from left to right, David Young, Gary Dagres, Nate Burns and Jia Xie.

Notre Dame MBA students took first place in the Fourth Annual Mergers and Acquisitions Case Competition, hosted by the the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business on Oct. 28-29.

The students from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business bested nine leading business schools in the challenge, which involved creating and presenting an M&A case to a panel of executive and faculty judges. The team, who took home $5,000 for first prize, included Nate Burns and Gary Dagres of the class of 2011, and Jay Xie and David Young of the class of 2012.

“Competitions of this type really put to the test the ability of our students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to answering a very realistic question,” said Edward J. Conlon, associate dean for Graduate Studies at the Mendoza College. “They also provide the team with feedback that is from the field and allow students to compare themselves with peers from other excellent institutions. We are both thrilled and proud that our team was able to bring home the top prize against such a strong field.”

Finishing behind Notre Dame was Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. Thomson Reuters sponsored the competition.

“This competition gives students the kind of real-world, problem-solving experience that all MBA students need,” said G. “Anand” Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “M&A involves much more than just good finance skills; it’s more important than ever that business leaders approach decisions with consideration of all possible outcomes and how those decisions will impact all stakeholders.”

Teams worked through the night to create persuasive arguments to a hypothetical case that involved deciding whether Microsoft should acquire one of three tech companies – Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry), Adobe or Yahoo. The Notre Dame team chose to pitch the RIM deal.

Students used Thomson Reuters’ real-time databases and tools extensively in preparing their analyses. Teams then pitched their final presentations to a panel of corporate executives, alumni and finance faculty serving as judges, who then selected four teams to advance to a final round. Teams were judged on their qualitative arguments and the quantitative models used to support their arguments.

“We got a lot of feedback from the judges,” said Nate Burns. “The main reasons cited for our victory were our teamwork, because each team member participated in the presentation, and the structure of our proposal, in that we made our recommendation early and spent most of the presentation detailing why.”

Burns said the team agreed that the most important takeaways from the experience was that being well-prepared to stand before the judging panel was key, as was selecting a team whose members have complementary skills.

Other competitors included MBA students from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago; the Kogod School of Business at American University; the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University; McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin; and Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“This competition really prepares students for the job market — these are the types of analyses they’ll be doing every single day,” said Olga Perin, commercial manger in the investment banking and market division at Thomson Reuters. “This exercise reinforces the things MBAs are learning back in the classroom. Here they got to compete with top students from other universities – the same people they’ll be competing with for jobs. This is great preparation for the real world on Wall Street and we were pleased to support this competition.”

The competition is the MBA Finance Association’s premier fall event at the Smith School. It also included a networking reception and opportunities for students to meet industry professionals and recruiters.