CEO video: Improving long-term services at DuPont

14 minute read 30 Nov 2021

Two major US chemical companies, DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company, completed a merger of equals to future-proof their businesses.

This is part of the Leadership in Action video series — a master class featuring prominent CEOs highlighting the decisive moment where bold decision-making has made a material impact on their company and career.

In 2017, two major US chemical companies, DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company, completed an all-stock merger of equals to become DowDuPont. This was no typical merger. The new firm immediately initiated proceedings to separate its three divisions — materials science, agriculture and specialty products — into three publicly traded companies: Dow, Corteva Agriscience and DuPont.

The audacious series of transactions was engineered by DuPont CEO Ed Breen, working together with his Dow counterpart Andrew Liveris. Ed saw long-term risks in the industry, and he knew that addressing them decisively would be key to maximizing value. “A big piece of the value of DuPont … was our agriculture division,” Breen says. “And I could tell that there was going to be a massive consolidation. If you didn’t participate in it, you were going to be left behind.”

Breen saw several areas of overlap in the businesses Dow and DuPont owned. He recognized that they could get ahead of the consolidation to come by combining forces, then spinning off into more tightly focused companies that have the agility demanded by the modern business landscape.

I always say, ‘What is the biggest lever we could pull to create long-term value?’
Ed Breen
Executive Chairman and CEO, DuPont

Executing on that vision required microscopic focus and experience. Breen turned to longtime DuPont transformation journey collaborator EY.

Improving services remained the North Star throughout the process. “The first step is to understand how the transaction is truly going to improve shareholder and stakeholder value in the long term,” says Sanjay Ramaswamy, a partner in the Strategy and Transactions service line at Ernst & Young, LLP. “The next step is to look at the risks and understand what are the mitigating actions that a management team has to take to manage through these risks.”

Breen notes that the complexity of, in his words, “getting married and immediately divorced” required clear, long-term vision and execution for three separate companies.

Throughout the merger, Breen’s ability to frame his vision in terms of long-term value by recognizing shifts in the industry instilled confidence that a transaction that looked bold on paper was necessary, rational and valuable. “I always say, ‘What is the biggest lever we could pull to create long-term value?’” Breen says. “Nothing short term, but long term, where we are going to look back in 5–10 years and say we made the right decision. If you think broadly, you’re open and you’re transparent, a lot of great things can happen.”


In a merger of equals, two major US chemical companies employed long-term vision to develop an opportunity for long-term services. EY teams helped DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company with sharp execution to realize services within their shifting industry.