Sell-Offs and Firm Performance: A Matter of Experience?

Matthias Brauer*, Jan Mammen, Johannes Luger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Drawing on organizational learning theory, this article examines the moderating influences of different forms of internal and external sell-off experience on the relationship between firm sell-off activity and subsequent firm accounting performance. The results from a longitudinal analysis of sell-off activity by 293 European companies over a 15-year period (1995-2009) are consistent with basic predictions from learning theory, suggesting a positive moderating influence of a firm’s general sell-off experience. Yet, by distinguishing between multiple forms of learning (i.e., experiential, superstitious, interfirm, and vicarious learning), we further argue and find that the composition of a firm’s general sell-off experience is of substantial importance. Specifically, we find that learning benefits result from the repeated sale of related assets, whereas high levels of experience heterogeneity negatively affect the relationship between firm sell-off activity and subsequent firm performance. Furthermore, external sell-off experience by advisors and by industry peers is found to positively influence the divestiture–firm performance linkage. Collectively, these findings contribute to organizational learning theory and extend prior research on divestiture performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1359-1387
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Organizational learning
  • Restructuring (divestitures)
  • Organizational development

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