Twice as Smart? The Importance of Managers’ Formative-Years’ International Experience for their International Orientation and Foreign Acquisition Decisions


  • This research has been financially supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant no. RES-061-25-0416) and UCD School of Business Seed Funding (grant no. R10479). The opinions presented are those of the authors and not of the funding bodies. Research assistance by Alessandra Cepparulo, Carolin Hecky, Pawel Lewandowski and Michael Potstada is gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


This study examined how top management team's (TMT) international orientation influences perceptions of environmental uncertainty and how these perceptions impact international strategic decisions, in particular regarding ownership stakes taken in foreign acquisitions. We highlighted the need for the concept of TMT international orientation to encompass executives’ formative-years’ international experiences along with their international career experiences and nationalities. Empirical tests based on a sample of 2122 international acquisitions completed by 561 UK firms over the period 1999–2008 showed that TMT international orientation positively moderated the negative impact of cultural differences and host country risk on acquisition ownership stakes. The results underscored the importance of considering decision-makers’ attributes due to their experiences at a young age, beyond their demographic characteristics or professional experience, in the context of international strategic choices. We also discussed some implications of one of the possible consequences of executives’ formative international experience, namely biculturalism, for international business.