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JPMorgan Chase & Co.

After Deal Flop, Honeywell's CEO Gets Back On Script

Dave Cote likes to keep things loose at Honeywell International Inc.

An interview one late-winter morning found the CEO in his element: Decked out in blue jeans and a casual button-down shirt and working at his desk to the soft hum of tunes from Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys and Nirvana. The vibe was so carefree as Cote reeled off old tales -- like the big earnings-guidance gaffe he made right after taking the top job 14 years ago or the story behind that signed picture of him and football star Tom Brady -- that there were no discernible signs that at that very moment he was trying to put the final touches on an acquisition bid of proportions he'd never tried before.

It was...