Overview: In 2006, the Toshiba Corporation of Japan entered into an agreement with British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) to acquire the Westinghouse Corporation for $5.4 billion. Headquartered outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with more than 5,000 employees, Westinghouse served as a world-leader in the commercial nuclear industry. Through the acquisition, Toshiba sought to expand its existing nuclear operations beyond Asia and Europe into North America and other regions. At the time, the Dubai Ports World controversy was just erupting in Congress. That controversy was based around the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approval of the Dubai Ports World Authority’s bid to provide port management in six major U.S. seaports. Concerned that a similar controversy could erupt around a Japanese corporation’s acquisition of U.S. based commercial nuclear facilities and technologies, Toshiba engaged The Herald Group to devise and implement a strategic communications program to positively influence the CFIUS and political processes the company was set to face.
The Solution: The Herald Group created a customized positioning and messaging platform to mitigate any potential negative media surrounding the CFIUS review process and to garner sustained support for the acquisition among Toshiba and BNFL stockholders, U.S. policymakers, key stakeholders and local communities of interest. Additionally, an overriding national strategy that centered on defining a needed “nuclear renaissance” in America was developed to address the dual domestic goals of greater energy independence and increased environmental quality, further underscoring the positive aspects of the acquisition. In the process, Toshiba’s global role in providing safe, clean and efficient commercial nuclear energy solutions and services was amplified among targeted audiences.
Utilizing both proactive and reactive tactics, a coalition of local and national support was built by differentiating the public policy and regulatory implications of this specific foreign acquisition from more recent controversial transactions. Additionally, The Herald Group conducted select media briefings (locally in communities with BNFL/Westinghouse facilities and nationally) with print publications and broadcasters who held influence over key policymakers and other government officials, developed relevant messaging, mobilized third-party champions and worked directly with Toshiba’s corporate communications and investor relations divisions to prepare their executives for the highly politicized aspects such a transaction could potentially present.
Results: The acquisition was approved by all government and regulatory entities, including CFIUS and the European Union. Valued at $5.4 billion, Toshiba/Westinghouse is now the world leader in commercial nuclear energy. With a stronghold in Asia and Europe, the new company is already making headway in North America and is currently in negotiations with several different utility companies to design and build the first of potentially several new commercial nuclear power plants in the United States in over three decades.