A process of selling a company to the highest bidder; however, in mergers and acquisitions, this means negotiating in private with any and all potential buyers who may come forward.
The process would typically be run by the CEO and any other senior management of a company. Most auctions in the mergers and acquisitions context are carried out with the assistance of an investment banker, who identifies, solicits, and then contacts as many potential buyers as possible. Along with pursuing interested buyers, the investment banker has deep involvement in responding to rejections and offers from potential purchasers. The investment bankers seek out strategic and/or financial buyers. They seek to determine which of these are most likely interested in (and thus most likely to pay top dollar for) the company; and the goal of the investment banker, like their compensation structure, is aligned with ultimately selling the company at an optimal price to the highest bidder and on the best terms. The company's legal counsel is needed to help put a company up for sale. the legal counsel will not only advise on the legal documents that are required, but also will usually help manage the due diligence information flow process.