BRUSSELS - Top executives of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corp. are already planning the Day One birthday party for DaimlerChrysler AG.
In New York and Frankfurt, where the new company's stock will be traded, backs will be slapped and a new corporate advertising campaign will begin.
Top executives have formed a post-merger team to plan operational details of the new company that will probably start operations in November. Day One is the internal code-name for DaimlerChrysler's first day of operations.
Company lawyers must clear several more regulatory hurdles, and shares must be tendered to the new company before it officially begins.
Shareholder meetings on 18 September in Stuttgart (Daimler-Benz AG) and in Delaware, USA (Chrysler Corp.) mark the beginning of the final phase. Only token opposition to the deal has surfaced.
The 18 executives who will be on DaimlerChrysler's new management board retreated to a luxury country hotel in Greenbrier, West Virginia, on 27-29 August to discuss merger details.
Daimler-Benz Chairman Juergen Schrempp, Chrysler Chairman Robert Eaton and their top managers hammered out a post-merger-integration plan that identified about 100 areas where costs could be saved by blending operations.
The goal is to save at least DM2.5 billion ($1.45 billion) in 1999 through synergies.
The post-merger strategy was unveiled at Greenbrier and approved by the two companies' top managers.
The 18 management board members heard a presentation by Ruediger Grube, Daimler's head of corporate strategy, and his equivalent at Chrysler, Barry Price. Grube and Price are co-leaders of the post-merger integration team that will grow to 30 or 40 members. It will oversee the work of 14 new integration sub-groups.
The team will report to the chairmen's integration council, which includes Schrempp, Eaton, Daimler passenger-car chief Juergen Hubbert, Chrysler President Thomas Stallkamp, Chrysler Chief Financial officer Gary Valade, and Manfred Gentz and Eckhard Cordes, Daimler's heads of finance and corporate development.
Top executives will meet before the end of September and after the vote to decide details of the integration phase.
'These projects start on Day One,' said spokesman Roland Klein. 'We have already defined how to integrate. We now have to decide on the 100 projects that will be studied, identify people to run them and give them time lines.'
The 14 sub-groups are assigned such key areas as purchasing, future products, research and development and finance.
Each will have up to several dozen members and will include one or two members of the DaimlerChrysler management board.
The approach toward integration is based on a study of 50 recent corporate mergers. Daimler and Chrysler managers met with strategists from some of the companies.
'They warned us about traps not to fall into and things we need to do,' said a Daimler-Benz spokesman. Priority will be given to projects linked to product development, manufacturing, purchasing and logistics.
Some key decisions have already been made.
For example, Chrysler will suspend work on diesel engines and fuel-cell technology, where Daimler-Benz has a strong position. Daimler will build its Mercedes-Benz M-class sport-utility at Magna's Steyr-Daimler-Puch plant in Graz, Austria, which also makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Early attention has been given to combined purchasing.
Manfred Remmel, Daimler's head of purchasing, launched discussions between the two purchasing departments earlier this month.
He also set up an exchange of supplier lists. The two companies could not do that before the end of a legally-enforced 'quiet period' that
ended 6 August with publication of a 238-page prospectus for the two shareholder meetings.
Under German law, Daimler-Benz shareholders must approve the merger by a 75 percent margin. Chrysler only needs a majority under US law.
Seven Daimler shareholders who are critical of the Daimler-Chrysler merger have been placed on the discussion agenda for the annual meeting in Stuttgart.
One, Heino Dreiling of Munich, says the planned use of English as the company's official language 'destroys the identity, style and tradition of Daimler-Benz and diminishes the professional opportunities of many employees.'
Others have asked to talk about executive pay levels, clash of cultures, the low fuel economy of the combined makes, and new fleet emissions levels.
If approval is granted, Daimler-Benz will launch a share exchange program for its stock on 24 September. The period will run for 30 days and can be extended.
Daimler-Benz needs 80 percent of its 520 million shares outstanding to be exchanged for DaimlerChrysler shares.
Meanwhile, plans are being made for the Day One festivities in New York and Frankfurt and the global advertising campaign.
'We're designing the corporate logo, stationery and planning how to celebrate,' said a Daimler spokesman. 'These are the things people are already thinking about.'