What project name did you give your last deal? We’ve compiled the most popular in our data rooms

Data Room & Due Diligence

The variety of code names used in mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals is intriguing. From Norse or Greek gods to planets, big cats, birds of prey, and colours, it's a testament to the creativity and diversity we see from customers using Admincontrol's data room

6.June 2024
Written by Admincontrol

You would be forgiven for thinking the name given to a potential deal might seem the least pressing issue. Strategic intent, financial performance, cultural integration, and competitive position are likely to feature higher on a dealmaker's list of priorities. Yet, choosing the name for a deal is still an essential part of the process. 

Why does a deal need a name? 

At first glance, agreeing on a deal's name may seem an easygoing task. In fact, it can be pivotal to success.  

As the Corporate Finance Institute highlights, deal names are essential for a transaction's confidentiality, especially in its early stages, when the outcome is far from determined. Given that a single transaction can take many months and involve internal and external teams, the risk of leaks is significant.  

Choosing a suitable name helps prevent public knowledge of the deal and its sensitive information that may jeopardise the outcome. For competitors, stock markets, and employees, timing the reveal of a possible merger is critical for example. The process may be revealed too early without a generic code name, putting both parties on the back foot and eroding trust.

However, there’s no harm in selecting a fun name or a play on words. They can be just as meaningful and often disguise the identities involved more effectively. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • Gaming characters - Project Mario or Project Lara, maybe? There are 50 to choose from in this list

For other light-hearted options, you could also select football team names (if you can avoid falling out with colleagues) or fantasy characters like these.  

Or you could take inspiration from the most popular names we see used by our data room customers. 

Popular deal names in our data rooms

The Top 5: 

  1. Green
  2. X
  3. Alpha
  4. Blue
  5. Eagle

For our customers across Europe, different themes and trends impact the names chosen. While 'Green,' 'Alpha,' and the simplistic 'X' have been the most popular names in recent times, there is also a marked use of characters from Greek, Norse, and Roman mythology.  

The use of Thor and Odin might reflect the geography of some of our Nordic customers, but the blockbuster movie Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth, may also play a role. Sticking to mythology, Apollo, Atlas, Poseidon, and Phoenix consistently feature in the top 45 names for M&A deals in Admincontrol data rooms. 

Using mythology to inspire names is not unique to dealmakers. The NASA space agency adopts Greek or Roman gods such as Apollo and Artemis for its missions. Sports apparel brand Nike is also the Greek goddess of victory, and the technology sector is often inspired by otherworldly characters, including Atlassian, Olympus, Oracle and Android.

Agreeing a deal's name can be pivotal to the process.Red for stop and green for go? 

Project Red, anyone? Red is, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be seen on the list of commonly used deal names. While red is a stop sign and can signal danger or anger, green traditionally signal progress, new growth, health, and vitality - opportunities every dealmaker wants to create. Perhaps a more modern interpretation of green is the positive association with sustainability and environmentally responsible business practices.

Sticking to colours, Blue is more compelling still, taking the fourth spot on our list of most popular names - perhaps a nod to blue-sky thinking.  

Next, we turn to the power of nature. Ocean, Star, Fjord, and formidable animals such as Eagle, Lynx, and Tiger are frequent deal names for Admincontrol customers. However, seeing Maggot featured in the top 20 names is a little surprising!  

Planets like Mercury, Jupiter, and the Sun are popular. River, Snow, Light, and Aurora also inspire an elemental approach to name selection. Breathing new life into a business through investment, harnessing the power of two companies in one entity, or divesting entirely for a fresh start lend themselves to project names reflecting mother nature's innate strength.  

Geography versus the abstract  

The choice of deal names will often come down to locality and geography—perhaps Viking, Fjord, or Snow resonate more strongly with Scandi businesses than they might in the UK, for example. However, mountain ranges are popular for everyone, with Everest featured in the top 20.  

If geographic options have been exhausted, a more abstract approach may be needed. Some adopt the universal Alpha or Beta, but others use single letters like 'X' or 'R.' This approach can also extend to the secret names given to each party in the transaction. In Kraft's takeover of Cadbury, for example, the deal was Project Helix, with Kraft using the code name Krypton and Cadbury going by Chromium.  

Then there's Project Hanks, frequently highlighted in historical roundups of M&A deals. Verizon Communications, demonstrating that cultural references influence clever names, used the Hollywood film You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks for inspiration. Dealmakers chose Project Hanks for its takeover of AOL, a major provider of email and online services, back in 2015. 

In summary, whether you opt for a film name, character, or something more abstract, choosing a project or deal name is not a trivial chore to tick off the list. It plays a vital role in protecting the confidentiality of financial and strategically important information from unauthorised scrutiny.

What code name will you choose for your next deal? 

Protecting a deal's confidentiality starts with choosing the right project name but continues with mitigating risks from cybersecurity threats.  Learn more:  
Under Attack: The Growing Threat of Cybersecurity Breaches in M&A 

Download: Your guide to preparing for successful due diligence | MoF