Fallen Giants: Iconic Companies That Disappeared
The business landscape has changed significantly in the past 25 years—not only in how we work but also with whom we work. It's sometimes easy to forget that king of the hill isn't a permanent position, and companies that seem invincible might not be around forever in their current form—or, in some cases, any form. Icons fall, and here are some of the names we took for granted in 1989 that have since faded away.
The oil company that started in 1910 was a giant in 1989. It was a leader in the lead-free gas movement and became the largest natural-gas producer in North America in the late '90s. Amoco never saw significant financial troubles: In 1997 the company earned $2.7 billion on revenue of $36.3 billion. But in 1998 it merged with British Petroleum in a $61 billion deal. Existing service stations were rebranded under the BP name, and the Amoco brand slowly dissolved.
Once America's second-largest shipbuilder and steel producer, Bethlehem Steel was beginning its decline in the late '80s, as the U.S. transitioned away from industrial manufacturing (amid lower labor costs in other countries).
But the thought of the company that built the Golden Gate Bridge going away entirely was still something few considered. It gave up shibuilding in 1997, and in 2001 the company was forced to file for bankruptcy, weighed down in part by spiraling pension and health-care costs as workers were laid off. Two years later International Steel Group bought what was left.Related: Business titans disclose their biggest mistakes
Along with Best Buy, this electronics retailer was where you went to pick up the latest and greatest gadget through much of the 1990s. As online shopping took off, though, things began to falter. And bad retail locations and questionable business moves (like abandoning its lucrative appliance-sales business and partnering exclusively with Verizon for mobile phone sales) led to bankruptcy.
Officials tried to secure a buyer but were unable to do so, forcing the company to lay off 30,000 employees and liquidate its stores in 2009.Related: Martha Stewart: It’s all about branding
In the early days of the personal computer, Compaq was a premier name, and by the mid-'90s it was the country's largest supplier of PC systems. By the end of that decade, though, it was suffering from product-quality issues and wasn't able to keep up with the rapidly changing industry.
Lower-cost competitors, like Dell, began capturing the attention of consumers—and the collapse of the dot-com bubble didn't help matters, as demand for the company's high-end systems evaporated. In 2002 the company agreed to merge with Hewlett-Packard, and the Compaq name slowly evaporated.Related: Secrets of success from business titans
Once the fourth-largest investment bank in the country, Lehman's 2008 bankruptcy filing was the largest in U.S. history, with the firm holding more than $600 billion in assets. It was something that seemed unthinkable just a few years prior, but weighed down by toxic housing assets and unable to find a buyer, the company ended up playing a significant role in the global financial crisis.
After the bankruptcy filing, Barclays bought the company's North American division for just $1.75 billion, with Nomura Holdings taking over the Asia-Pacific, European and Middle Eastern operations.
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