This paper investigates the correlates of merger and acquisition (M&A) success, focusing on the crucial pre-M&A stage. We first seek to improve understanding the different phases of this process. Then, importantly, we identify the relevant success factors, and link each success factor to a specific phase. Our exploratory methodology includes analyses of seven M&As, in-depth interviews of senior managers, company documents, and financial reports. The findings reveal seven phases to the M&A pre-stage, each matched to discrete success factors. Thus, for example, in the strategic planning phase, relevant factors included specific knowledge, training in cultural differences, financial power of the acquirer, and market analysis. In the screening phase, successful firms followed the selection criteria and remained in their core business. Finally, the paper discusses the managerial implications, the recommendations for future research, and research limitations.