EC watchdog pauzes Aon | Willis Towers Watson antitrust study

15 February 2021 2 min. read

The planned mega-merger between US-headquartered Aon and UK-headquartered Willis Towers Watson has hit a snag following the European Commission’s announcement that it has suspended its antitrust investigation into the deal.

In March last year, Aon and Willis Towers Watson announced their intention to merge in a $30 billion deal. The new combination would see two of the three world’s largest HR consulting firms and insurance brokers combine to form the undisputed leader in the landscape, leapfrogging Marsh & McLennan Companies (the parent of Mercer, Oliver Wyman, Marsh and Guy Carpenter).

As expected by analysts and Aon and Willis Towers Watson themselves, the merger plan led the European Commission to launch a probe due to concerns that the new global leader could hurt competition in major markets. In December 2020, the Commission formally launched its investigation, asking both companies to provide necessary information for its economic analysis and competition due diligence.

EC watchdog pauzes Aon | Willis Towers Watson antitrust study

However, a spokeswoman for the EU watchdog has now unveiled that Aon failed to provide the required data on time, and as a result, the Commission has suspended the study. “Once the missing information is supplied by the parties, the clock is re-started and the deadline for the Commission’s decision is then adjusted accordingly,” she said.

Originally, the European Commission had a deadline of May 10th, 2021 to decide on the proposed merger. However, under this suspension, the deadline could be shifted by the duration of the delay, meaning that the mega-combination could see its closing pushed back. Aon declined to comment on the matter and said that closing is still on track for closing in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, in merger documents sent in to the Commission, Aon and Willis Towers Watson have outlined their future leadership team. Aon’s Greg Case will become the new CEO, while Aon’s Christa Davies will be appointed the CFO. They will be joined by an Executive Committee including among others Eric Anderson, Maggie Westdale, and Julie Gebauer.

At the other side of the table, Willis Towers Watson has confirmed that it has approved retention agreements worth $2.1 million for four executives as an incentive for their continued employment until the closing of the merger with Aon. The quartet are: Michael Burwell, Gene Wickes, Carl Hess and Joseph Gunn.