Journal of economics-zeitschrift fur nationalokonomie vol:74 issue:3 pages:231-258
Many research contributions have investigated the identity of the leader in oligopolistic markets. As a general rule, this literature points to the leader being either the most efficient, the largest or the best informed player. However, there tend to be exceptions to this rule and it is unclear who will become the leader when firms at the same time are different in size, efficiency of production and/or the quality of the information they have. The present paper reveals insights regarding this last question. As such, it points to the elements "that really matter" to explain for leadership when firms are different from each other in more than one respect. It turns out that the most efficient firm becomes the leader, regardless whether or not its rival has invested in more capacity. While this result tends to be in line with the previous findings regarding the identity of the leader being the relatively more efficient firm, it contradicts the "dominant firm" scenario regarding price leadership. This is the result of enlarging the strategy space of the players, by including a buyout option. As such, the paper provides the foundations and hence a theoretical justification for price leadership out of a collusive motive. Since a priori the model also does not exclude a barometric price leadership outcome, it is appropriate to conclude that the buyout option truly is a collusive device strong enough to suppress other reasons for price leadership. Therefore, [tie arrangements observed in reality aiming at the implementation of buyout possibilities have to be watched very closely from an antitrust perspective.