The 25 Worst Business Failures in History

It is said that up to 50% of businesses fail within five years of inception. Most of these business start and end in obscurity. A few of them, however, start up with the verve of a cannonball, only to crash with equal fanfare. Some of the companies listed below, like Enron and DeLorean, exemplify this cataclysmic appeal. Others, like Pan Am and Woolworth’s, just tug at our heartstrings.

Check out the 25 worst business failures in history below:

25. Fashion Café

Want some Newports with that iceberg lettuce?

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A restaurant that serves gargantuan burgers and fried appetizers founded by a bunch of supermodels and fey fashionistas didn’t work? Hmm, I wonder why. “The $20 Salad Extraordinaire,” created exclusively for Naomi Campbell, reportedly consisted of a glass of champagne, a pack of Newports and two slices of tomato accompanied by an iceberg leaf. Famed restaurateur Tommaso Buti was the “brains” behind the operation. He over-franchised the cafes, was accused of mismanagement, then followed Christy Turlington in selling his stake in the company. Buti, already accused of defrauding investors, was arrested in 2000 and charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and transportation of stolen property.

24. CBGB

A legend turns into a men’s store

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In 2006, after 33 years of offering up legends like the Talking Heads, Blondie, Misfits and the stalwart Ramones, CBGB, the most famous underground alt-rock/punk club in the world, closed its doors. It was shuttered to make way for a high-end men’s fashion store. Patti Smith gave the historic club an emotional, if punk, goodbye by tearing the stage and room apart. Ironically, the very same shrine that so many skinny-jean hipsters and adrenaline-fueled punks would come to mourn was originally started by Hilly Kristal as a venue for his favorite music: “Country, Blue Grass and Blues.”

23. The Edsel

Ford’s biggest flop

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In 1958, Ford’s newest vehicle, launched on “E-Day,” flailed, flopped, and imploded. Ford kept the Edsel under wraps as a new kind of futuristic, experimental car. One fateful day in 1958, the Edsel was revealed…and immediately faceplanted. This car of the future was blah by anyone’s standards. By November 1959, when Ford finally mercy-killed the Edsel, it had lost an estimated $250 million–nearly $2 billion in today’s dollars. Edsel is now synonymous with a marketing business failure.

22. Flooz.com

The name says it all

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Flooz.com blew through up to $50 million dollars trying to convince new Internet users that money online would work like frequent flier miles or gift cards. Part of that money went to a notoriously bad ad campaign featuring Whoopi Goldberg (before she was cool again). And the name? Flooz is derived from the Arabic word for money. In August, 2001 the company folded their chairs and went home. Apparently, people could just use their credit cards. Whoops!

21. The Hit Factory

A New York classic goes condo

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Deep in New York, in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, The Hit Factory was one the world’s most recognized recording Studios. Started by Edward Germano in 1975, it saw everyone from Tony Bennett to U2 record amazing tracks. After Germano’s death in 2003, his wife Janice took over operations. Citing the “digital age,” she closed the doors and sold the building, moving the operations to an existing Hit Factory in Miami. Troy Germano, Edward’s son, later acknowledged publicly that his mother simply closed it out of greed. She wanted to move to Miami and thought she could make good money on the building’s sale. It is now a luxury condominium complex, with prices starting at $1 million.

20. Betamax

BetaWrong

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I could give you facts, figures, and dates to support why Betamax failed so miserably, but that would be a blog post unto itself. Suffice it to say: Betamax was bulky, complicated, ugly, expensive, publicly ridiculed, horribly marketed, disdained by the media, and only capable of limited recording and playback. The capper? Most Hollywood movies that people rented were just a little bit over one hour. Too bad…and good riddance.

19. SwissAir

The “Flying Bank” ends up buried

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The former national airline of Switzerland, Swissair, used to be so financially stable that it was known as the “Flying Bank.” Founded in 1931, Swissair epitomized international transportation until the late 1990s, when the airline’s board decided to follow an aggressive borrowing and acquisition policy called the Hunter strategy. Then, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 put a void in the company’s plans Swissair found itself hamstrung with debt. Unlike some other airlines, however, Swissair couldn’t handle the financial hit. Mismanagement and bad ideas—trundling large sums of cash to purchase fuel at foreign airports, for example—left the airline gasping for oxygen. In 2002, Switzerland was embarrassed to lose its national icon for good.

18. Ponzi’s Security Exchange Company

Bernie Madoff’s famous forebear

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It’s quite an achievement to have a breed of financial scam named after yourself. Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, ran a staggering 6-month pyramid scheme in 1920 by gaining investments (over $15 million) from an ever-growing pool of more than 40,000 investors. Ponzi would use “profits” from new investors to pay “interest” to old ones. Using a trade system of international reply coupons for postage stamps and leveraging exchange rates, Ponzi made a lot of people money through the “Securities Exchange Company,” which claimed to leverage exchange rates through an international postage stamp reply coupon trading system (this mouthful of a phrase reminds me of how people described derivatives in 2008). But his scheme ruined lives–including Charles’ own. After jumping a few bails, he did prison time from 1926 through 1934. Years later, he died, penniless, in a Brazil charity hospital, half-blind and partially paralyzed.

17. Woolworth’s

The bad economy bullies Woolies towards its own demise

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Brits, who held “Woolies” close to their hearts, were were crushed when this comfort food and houseware retailer closed its last 807 stores after nearly 100 years of service on High Street and beyond. At one time, Woolworths was the leading music retailer in the entire U.K. During the 1950s and 60s, the store was instrumental to the Beatles’ sales success Indeed, Woolies also played a role in breaking Madonna to the rest of the world. Hey, she’s a Brit now. Maybe she’ll pony up the cash to save them? Not likely.

16. Premier Smokeless Cigarette

Taste-wise, charcoal just doesn’t cut it

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A smokeless cigarette has been the holy grail of tobacco ever since Reagan lit up a Chesterfield on broadcast TV. In an effort to reduce the harmful effects of inhaling cigarette smoke, RJ Reynolds launched the Premier cigarette, a “smokeless nicotine delivery mechanism that looks and feels like a premium cigarette,” in 1988. The product ended up a miserable flop. Not only did this expensive cig taste like charcoal, it ended up being employed by drug users as a handy “delivery mechanism” for substances other than tobacco. The cost of the project? A cool $1 billion.

15. Bre-X Minerals

Fool’s gold strikes again

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If someone tells you they’ve struck gold on the isle of Borneo, grab your money and run the other way. In 1995, Bre-X Minerals was a tiny mining company based in Calgary with stock worth under $1 when they announced they had found extensive deposits of Gold in Busang, Indonesia. As a result, their stock shot to almost $300 CAD a share. A series of strange events, including a man fallen from a helicopter and eaten by tigers, roused enough suspicion to unravel the fraud. By 199, an outside analysis of the sites samples revealed that Bre-X had faked their findings by “salting” samples with gold dust. Within weeks, the NASDAQ and TSX delisted the company, which at one point held a market cap of $4.4 billion. Investors slapped their foreheads, and Bre-X Minerals slunk into history as a major business failure.

14. IndyMac

IndySplat

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On July 11, 2008 the FDIC seized the assets of the largest Savings and Loan in Los Angeles and the 7th largest loan originator in the country. The seizure sparked rumors of bank runs. It also gave the public the first real, Main Street glimpse of the Financial Crisis of 2008. IndyMac was founded in 1995 as Countrywide Mortgage Investment. Its purpose was to provide a means of collateralizing loans too high in value for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to service. At the time of its seizure, IndyMac held nearly $30 billion in assets, making it the fourth largest bank failure in history.

13. Edison Records

First isn’t always best

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It’s always difficult being first. Thomas Edison founded the first record company and invented the phonograph, the first device made for recording and playback of sound, in 1877. This achievement led to all of the music industry as we now know it. Surprisingly, it was also the first dictaphone in history used by businesses. World War I shortened the supply of materials Edison could use for his highly secret wax recipe, used in manufacturing. The company’s market share fell. As other companies seized the opportunity the make “needle-cut” records (an Edison Labs invention) Edison Records lost customers and credibility. It closed its doors in 1929.

12. Tucker Automobiles

There’s a reason only four of them ever died

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The ambitious car company that Preston Tucker started was only in business one year (‘47-‘48). It produced a mere of 51 cars, but its story remains enshrined in museums, car clubs, film and even a video game where everyone drives a Tucker. The fatal flaw? Offering customers the option to buy their accessories before their car was built. This program started a witch-hunt by the SEC. Amid accusations of fraud and the “Big Three’s” influence over government, Tucker Automobiles went belly-up. I will spare you the argument of whether it was the best car ever made, but out of that original 51, 47 Tuckers still exist today. Let that be your clue.

11. Sharper Image

Buy, but do not inhale

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Started in 1977 as a catalog selling jogging watches, the Sharper Image eventually grew into a high-end customer electronics store. As iPods and other branded, high-tech items took over the store’s traditional market share, it launched into the infomercial business with the Oreck vacuum and Ionic Breeze. Unfortunately, the Ionic Breeze did not purify the air as it said it did. After losing a lawsuit against Consumer Reports for a negative review, the testing company released findings that the Ionic breeze actually produced trace levels of ozone. In 2008, the store went bankrupt, forcing shoppers to buy their overpriced, Japanese made, brushed steel, throw-away executive gifts elsewhere.

10. Washington Mutual Bank

See bank run

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WaMu was America’s largest Savings and Loan association, the sixth largest bank in the U.S., and (drumroll please…) the largest bank failure in history. Let that sink in for a minute. After a 10-day run on the bank in late September 2008, with total withdrawals in excess of $16 billion USD–almost 10% of the deposits–the FDIC seized WaMu’s assets. JPMorgan Chase bought WaMu subsidiaries the next day for what many suspect at pennies on the dollar. The holding company is currently in Chapter 11.

9. Enron

They made the E crooked for a reason

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Enron was an energy sector leader that started to dabble in e-commerce and exotic investment areas, such as weather futures. In 2001, Enron, once valued at $90 billion and the 7th largest company in the United States, went bankrupt. It took jobs, investor savings, retiree futures and even some lives with it. In following years, it emerged that they shredded documents, started partnerships with their own shell companies, and engaged in massive inside trading. Enron is now synonymous with the business outcomes of galloping greed.

8. Polaroid

Go digital or die

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Shake it like a Polaroid picture! You know you’re good when your name is the product. (Hello, Kleenex). But while you and I were buying our first digital camera, printing pictures and later taking photos with our phones and PDA’s, the execs at Polaroid were snapping and shaking their pictures into oblivion. So loved was the brand that countless people took daily shots of and created art, diaries and literature using these magical snapshots taped to their walls or to the street. The leader of an amazing niche technology that so enriched anyone born before 1980, Polaroid went bankrupt in 2005. The name may emerge again, but the brand and the impact will always be retro.

7. Atkins Nutritionals

Fadkins takes a bad fall

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Apparently, bread won. Remember when all of your friends ordered their lunch without the bun and no potatoes, but with lard-laden beef and cheese? Atkins engineered the “low-carb” craze, a fad diet claiming you could “lose fat by eating fat.” Dr. Robert Atkins released Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution in 1972. In 1992, revised version gained popularity; the fad really took off at the beginning of millennium. Questions arose from the medical community about the diet’s long-term effects. Countless others, from the FDA to top chefs, also lined up to take shots at it. In 2003, it was reported to a skeptical public that the good doctor slipped on an icy sidewalk and died. The company went bankrupt within two years amidst the suspicion that his diet killed him. Meanwhile, a fickle public ditched low-card for the next fad. A year later, a leaked medical examinations report revealed that Dr. Atkins, 72, had a history of heart attack and congestive heart failure. He weighed 258 pounds at death.

6. Bethlehem Steel

When service kills steel

Everything you know about historic America has Bethlehem Steel in it. Founded when James Buchanan was our nation’s president, Bethlehem Steel was the backbone of the first blasting furnace, railroads, skyscrapers, coal, nuclear reactors, warships, cargo vessels, large construction projects like arenas, and other major infrastructural accomplishments. However, the company never adjusted to the new service-based economy that gained ground in the 1990s. Cheap imports worsened the situation. Bethlehem Steel, a piece of American history, disappeared forever when it filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

5. Pets.com

Big isn’t better

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Pet’s can’t drive, and sock puppets make bad spokespeople, but Pets.com made the dot-com bubble their own in 2000. They overexpanded by opening a nationwide network of warehouses nationwide too quickly (taking a hint from Starbucks). Unfortunately, profits never caught up with media buys for commercials. In marketing, nothing is worse than having everyone know who you are and no one interested in what you sell. Widely recognized as the icon or poster child for dot-com failure, its stock went from over $11 in early 2000 to just $.19 on Election Day that same year, when the company closed its doors.

4. White Star Lines’ “Titanic”

A disaster of titanic proportions

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White Star Lines, which built the Titanic, has oddly disappeared from the lore surrounding the fated giant. The fated vessel was conceived of in 1907, when executives Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie drastically changed and expanded their shipping transportation business to compete with Cunard’s new luxury oceanliners. The result was a line of gargantuan luxury liners that moved more passengers and freight than anyone else on the market. Three ships came out of the venture: The Olympic, the Titanic, and the Brittanic. You know the rest of the story. Cue the music!

3. Commodore Computers

You can’t kill the C64

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Between 1983-1986, Apple, IBM, and Atari computer were quaking in their boots. The reason? The Commodore 64 was selling 2 million units a year and dominated nearly 50% of the total market. As the company tried to innovate by releasing the Commodore plus/4, a faster, smarter version with a color screen, they alienated their original customer base. The new model was incompatible with the cherished C64. Commodore tried to discontinue the old line in the US by 1990 and announced it would stop shipping them in 1995. The tactic didn’t work. Customers all over Europe continued to snap up the C64s until it became impossible for the company to manufacture them at a reasonable price without selling new, more expensive models. As they say, “you can’t kill the C64.” The company went bankrupt in the spring 1994.

2. DeLorean Motor Company

A man, his cocaine, and his car

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As is often the case in the automobile industry, it’s hard to separate the man from the vehicle. John DeLorean was a hero amongst the very rich for creating the kind of car the future promised. With a stainless steel-skinned body, sleek lines and doors that opened vertically (gull wings), his DMC-12 hit the streets in 1980. Over the next three years, only 8,900 cars would be made. The car played a feature role in “Back to the Future” and become a potent status symbol. Then, in 1983, a sting revealed John on tape saying “this cocaine is as good as gold,” referring to a suitcase full of drugs valued at $24 million. Later acquitted on entrapment grounds and cleared of defrauding his partners, he would never gain the investor’s trust again.

1. Pan Am

The icon that didn’t pan out

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It’s amazing how a country’s identity can be so closely tied to a business. Such was the case with PanAm. Founded in 1927, the airline was a part of American culture for the better part of the 20th century. It led the industry in international flights and luxury travel. It was also the first airline to make widespread use of jumbo jets, and the first to use an air staff of stewardesses as a PR focal point. Little girls grew up wanting to be PanAm stewardesses, and boys grew up wanting to pilot one of the fleet. Heck, the Beatles arrived on one. Unfortunately, as an American icon, PanAm was also a target for terrorism. A few horrific incidents, coupled with the increased global competition that came with deregulation, caused the airline—and its accompanying era—to collapse in 1991.

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Comments

  1. Lela Davidson's Gravatar Comment by Lela Davidson on January 15th, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Easy now.. that sock puppet was the coolest spokesperson we’ve had in years.

  2. Kiran's Gravatar Comment by Kiran on January 15th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Really neat article. Good insights too. Apt for the recession times.

  3. Rob's Gravatar Comment by Rob on January 22nd, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I would agree with a few of them. But companies like PanAm, SwissAir & Woolworths are not “worst business failures.” Sure they are dead and gone, but they had some really good years, and some profits.. Edison Records, Tucker, DeLorean: they are true failures, cause then never had a chance to make money. And never did.

  4. Sam's Gravatar Comment by Sam on February 23rd, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    As a former WaMu employee (recently), I can tell you Chase purchased WaMu’s 10B worth of Banking-only assets for between 1-4B. Let it be said, that for (PR) reasons, they were ahem, generous enough to leave the holding company’s (Inc.) traditional practice of severance payouts and pensions intact – I won’t need to touch savings for a year if I can’t find work. They also have a job center set up in Seattle with workshops, computers, fax/printers, etc. It’s speculated Chase had Bush admin cronies in the FDIC that greased this deal – we’ll never know. However, it was the stupidity and fear of our American Moron Majority that led to the run on deposits. Oh, and of course the company was mismanaged…some speculate expense ratios were between 55-65%. There’s also a Frontline documentary on this subject. Obama cleared house, so let’s see what he and crew can do. On that note, I have to go pinch a fat one.

  5. ALMOST610's Gravatar Comment by ALMOST610 on February 27th, 2009 at 4:45 am

    There is still Plenty of Woolworths Supermarkets over here in Australia

  6. Roareye Black's Gravatar Comment by Roareye Black on March 17th, 2009 at 1:42 am

    That’s a pretty good article, enjoyable :)

    Only downside is your work on the Commodore company. The Commodore 64 replacement wasn’t as big a failure as you painted it. Indeed, when the Commodore Amiga 500 was realased Commodore reached a new height. With alot of Japanese and European game development and the Amiga series was a major success. The C64 wouldn’t have lasted all the way through to 1995, the Amiga secured Commodore’s success for that extended period. Ignoring the Amiga is to ignore the most advanced sound chip of the era, Chris Huelsbeck’s creation of the advanced TFMX sound program and some outstanding titles.

    But then, with America not doing much on the system, they likely didn’t recieve it. I dunno. The Commodore’s main downfall was their introduction of the first 32bit CD based console (Amiga CD32), for which had no real market, had no unique titles and developers were wary of making anything but under-developed ports. However the PC variant (The Amiga CDTV) was used in the BBC’s special effects department until 1996/97. Though the company itself dissipated in 1995. Amiga is still going as a seperate company, they produce high-end gaming PCs.

    Roareye Black.

  7. Joe Cassara's Gravatar Comment by Joe Cassara on April 4th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    The author is completely wrong, inaccurate, and out of his league with respect to Commodore. If anyone would like the real story of one of the most innovative and successful computer companies, check out “The Commodore Story” by Brian Bagnal.

  8. Kris's Gravatar Comment by Kris on April 19th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    This is very wrong. C64 was a great machine

    And I really dislike that you have an incorrect image of the production DeLorean…

  9. Oyediran Michael's Gravatar Comment by Oyediran Michael on April 27th, 2009 at 1:49 am

    That is just a sincere and explanatory analysis. But the solution should be provided.

  10. oguz's Gravatar Comment by oguz on May 7th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    What about http://www.etoys.com???? I thought they had it all going for them but then messed up somehow…

  11. ben's Gravatar Comment by ben on May 15th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    my friends dad still has a commodore monitor! well… it just died recently.

  12. Cheryl's Gravatar Comment by Cheryl on May 17th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Dunno where you got your info on betamax.. Lots of movies clearly had no trouble fitting on a betamax tape, which was physically smaller than a VHS tape. The Sony betamax tape player I have looks very similar to the VHS player and the DVD player sitting with it.
    The problem was marketing, not the product.

  13. Robert Morris's Gravatar Comment by Robert Morris on June 6th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I think that “When Giants Stumble,” by Robert Sobel is a great book on this topic. His list is better.

  14. Reese5alive's Gravatar Comment by Reese5alive on June 17th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Nothing is as powerful as an idea who’s time has come, but unfortunately, the demon of human interest is far more powerful, many of those companies failed by ‘consumer faith’.
    There is no smoke without fire, for many of them, and in certain cases, the world is not ready for innovation to a point where it could undermine the structure of the stable economy. If today I marketted the ‘truth’ I would get nailed to a tree just like so many others. It’s not just air that keeps aeroplanes flying, it’s a lot to do with government support, which won’t let many upset the apple cart. Survival of the fittest, in all of it’s horrible definitions.

  15. Tiffany's Gravatar Comment by Tiffany on July 22nd, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I agree you need to seriously research these things better. The DeLorean you are showing is not the one that was sold. I have sitting right outside of my house. I know what I am talking about. This is a picture of a true DeLorean: http://damox.com/cars/wallpaper/Delorean/1981_Delorean_DMC12.jpg . And the whole cocaine thing was false. The guy was set up by the government.

  16. Alex's Gravatar Comment by Alex on August 27th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    euh… What about Lehman Brothers??

  17. Rob's Gravatar Comment by Rob on August 27th, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I disagree with you saying that Polaroid is a flop.

  18. dave's Gravatar Comment by dave on August 27th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Bre X was a fraudulent business not a failed business

  19. Mark Pannell's Gravatar Comment by Mark Pannell on August 27th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Get your facts straight. CBGB didn’t “fail.” There was a real estate dispute that, after years of litigation, eventually forced CBG out of the property. Financially, they were fine.

  20. gregg's Gravatar Comment by gregg on August 27th, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    IN history? I am so disappointed this doesn’t even cover US history adequately… the failures are notable but most of them would be lesser stars if the author had done some research into HISTORY.

  21. BeBizzy's Gravatar Comment by BeBizzy on August 27th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Not sure I agree with about half of these. To me, a failure is something that never quite got going or crashed to the ground, like Flooz. But when a company runs successfully for years like Woolworths or Commodore Computers and reaches its end-of-life, it’s just he business cycle. No one is immune and it happens to many companies.

  22. Dude's Gravatar Comment by Dude on August 27th, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    You forgot the XFL.

  23. Doug's Gravatar Comment by Doug on August 27th, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    This article is a joke. The descriptions are rife with factual errors (almost every single thing in the Betamax paragraph is incorrect), and many of them don’t even qualify as business failures. How is the widow selling the NY location of the Hit Factory a business failure? Ridiculous.

  24. vine's Gravatar Comment by vine on August 28th, 2009 at 12:10 am

    While betamax failed as a consumer product the beta format is still used extensively in any professional production house.

  25. Emil's Gravatar Comment by Emil on August 28th, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Lehman brothers?

  26. brad's Gravatar Comment by brad on August 28th, 2009 at 5:28 am

    I feel for commodore computer. poor they

  27. Jim's Gravatar Comment by Jim on August 28th, 2009 at 7:12 am

    in regards to CBGBs, the venue was not shuttered to make way for a men’s store. It was shuttered because their rent was raised by the owners of the bulding, the not-for-profit Bowery Development Committee(BDC).

    Hilly looked into moving CBGBs to Las Vegas or contemplated moving it but it didn’t pan out. John Varvatos setting up shop in CBGBs wasn’t announced until a year after the fact – and several months after Hilly Kristal died. Furthermore, Varvatos promised to “do justice” to CBGBs in the design. In short, it could have been worse – it could have become a Starbucks.

    At any rate while the club was open for 33 years, and while a cultural powerhouse, it was never really in financially sound shape. Rumors of its demise were always around – so respectfully, i don’t think the closing of CBGB is anywhere near even the closing of the Fashion Cafe – and certainly does not belong on this list.

    And if your decision to include it was based on the loss of the historic concert venue, the Palladium in NYC (think of the cover of London Calling – *that’s* the palladium)was demolished to make way for an NYU dorm. That is a loss.

  28. Zang's Gravatar Comment by Zang on August 28th, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Beta a flop? In what world? In the consumer market, it did okay (but not spectacular) and held out for almost a decade against VHS, but because of it’s technical superiority (higher-resolution, better tracking, early adoption of Hi-Fi Stereo) to VHS, it thrived in the broadcast market. Betamax spawned the Betacam format which is STILL IN USE in some markets today.

    If you want a spectacular video format failure, howabout TeD (Television Electronic Disc), LaserDisc, or the DRMed to all hell DIVX (Digital Video Express) DVD?

  29. Jason's Gravatar Comment by Jason on August 28th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Without failure you can’t a appreciate sucess. No matter which instance you look at it helped progress that industry in one way or another.

  30. Comet's Gravatar Comment by Comet on August 28th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Hmm, probably just a bad timing for Edison Records.

  31. zebrachick4's Gravatar Comment by zebrachick4 on August 28th, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    lmao Titanic a business failure. Um…yep

    Enron is the definition of business failure.

    I disagree with C64 and Poloroid being failures though. Those were good for the times when they were around. They might be gone now but they had good years.

  32. website's Gravatar Comment by website on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:16 am

    FTA (about Bethlehem Steel):

    "However, the company never adjusted to the new service-based economy that gained ground in the 1990s."

    What does that mean? That every company that produced a product was supposed to become service-based in the 90s??

    Bethlehem Steels failure had everything to do with the cheap steel imports from other countries and poor management.

  33. Vic's Gravatar Comment by Vic on October 13th, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Wow. Great compilation of the world’s worst business failures. Any references? I really admire how you compile the article.

    Technology industry (airplanes, cars, electronics and computers) are big losers in the list. Specially when a company does not apply innovation.

  34. Stijn Boterberg's Gravatar Comment by Stijn Boterberg on October 18th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    John Delorean was proven NOT guilty..

  35. Donald's Gravatar Comment by Donald on November 2nd, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    etoys? (one time market cap was > Toys-R-Us!)
    webvan?
    Leaman Bros? 150+ year old company?
    Fanne Mae? (Government Fraud)
    Freddy Mac? (Government Fraud)

  36. fang's Gravatar Comment by fang on November 16th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    How about WORLDCOMM, all the US Railroad Companies, Tyco … ?

  37. Otto's Gravatar Comment by Otto on December 17th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Not *all* railroads, just a select few in the Northeast in the 1970s. Really surprised PENN CENTRAL did not make the list. Bankrupt in June 1970, it was the largest railroad in the East (over 20,000 miles of track) and was a modern “diversified conglomerate” that suffered from poor management decisions and even worse investment choices. It was the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history at the time. The Penn Central bankruptcy paved the way for the successful reorganization through Conrail, and also helped deregulate the railroad industry and make it more competitive.

  38. Joshua's Gravatar Comment by Joshua on December 29th, 2009 at 9:19 am

    You mean in america only right? Because woolworths is still a thriving company in australia, making billions and completely dominating and monopolizing the market.

  39. Steve's Gravatar Comment by Steve on February 16th, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Uh, you guys may want to hit up snopes.com on your Dr. Atkins information, because what you have here is so grossly misleading that I can’t take any of the rest of it seriously.

  40. unknow's Gravatar Comment by unknow on April 6th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    This is list wrong in so so many ways

  41. Jack's Gravatar Comment by Jack on May 17th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    This is the worst article ever, and for one reason: the guy obviously didn’t do much research. #2. DeLorean Motor Company is still in operation! Don’t believe me? http://www.delorean.com. How could a business that is still around–and it IS the same business, they aren’t selling Hyundais or anything–be on this list of failures if it was still operating?!?! I own one, they are fantastic cars…still look like new, still runs great (a few problems but hey it IS a 30 yr old car).. dumb. Just dumb. Get a clue dude.

  42. Zinjo's Gravatar Comment by Zinjo on July 6th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I have to agree with Cheryl. Betamax failed due to poor marketing. The tape was superior to VHS and was the broadcast industry standard until it switched over to digital in the 90′s.

    The tape wars were similar to the recent HD wars. During the late 70s and early 80′s you had supporters of both formats, but ultimately JVC won the war and VHS became the consumer electronic standard format for home video, leaving Betamax to remain in the Commercial Broadcast industry.

    It would explain why Sony fought so hard for the Bluray HD format.

    In the 70′s their Beta tape lost out to JVC’s VHS, in the 90′s they lost their R&D investment in DVD to the conglomerate of vested partners of Phillips, Toshiba and Time Warner when the group decided not to allow any one partner to control the media.

  43. Robert's Gravatar Comment by Robert on August 6th, 2010 at 8:36 am

    @ Zinjo

    Lets not forget the MiniDisc either. It never really took off in the US.

    Of course the days of optical media are ending..at least when it comes to personal music players. I’m almost tempted to bust out my old MD and rock it..

  44. Jim's Gravatar Comment by Jim on August 8th, 2010 at 8:39 am

    let it be known that Pan Am airlines is now Pan Am Railways!

  45. Matth84's Gravatar Comment by Matth84 on September 1st, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Woolworth,Polaroid and Pan Am Can hardly considered business failures. All market leaders in there industries. Woolworth was on a massive decline due to the increase in iTunes and downloading. Polaroid suffered from the invention of digital recording technology. Pan Am lost out due to bad luck and other companies able to do it cheaper or better than them. Companies that were market leaders for 60-100 years is no way a failure. In that vane the Sony Walkman was a complete failure because they stopped selling when the iPod came out?

  46. Spurs fan's Gravatar Comment by Spurs fan on October 26th, 2010 at 5:15 am

    How can you have a list like that and not have Ratner’s on it? Remember the famous “People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’, I say, ‘because it’s total crap’” speech?

    One after dinner speech wiped half a billion pounds and the company had to change its name in order to survive!!

  47. BigMike's Gravatar Comment by BigMike on October 29th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    BetaMax was one of Sonys many adventures, just like the failed MiniDisc which had a small devout following and good premise, but it never panned out. Lets not forget their infamous and dangerous rootkit… On up to the industry standard 3.5″ computer floppy disk, BluRay, Walkman, Playstation consoles, and the “CD” itself.

    Polaroid is still around making reasonable quality digital cameras and various (rebranded) electronic items with their name on it.

    Commodore has been bought out by another company (I forget the name) and has been working on an alternative OS that is not based on the same zeros and ones of most modern PC OS/Software, I understand it may have similar roots to the Commodore’s original software formats.

  48. Ubel's Gravatar Comment by Ubel on November 25th, 2010 at 12:23 am

    @Jack- Don’t rag on him for not doing his research when you obviously haven’t done much of your own. There is a Delorean Motor Company in existence right now, but it is totally unaffiliated with the original DMC. The man who started the new DMC bought the leftover parts for the DMC-12 left behind after the original DMC went bust, and he used it to make new DMC-12s, and to sell repair parts for the old ones. While the companies share a name, and the car the sell/support, they are not at all the same company, and the original DMC did go very, very bust.

  49. Averre's Gravatar Comment by Averre on November 27th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Yeah…Commodore was anything but a business faliure. They dominated the home computer market.

    If any computer of the 80′s crashed and burned it would be Tangerine and Oric Products. The Oric was unable to keep up with the Speccy and Commodore.

  50. jmfd11's Gravatar Comment by jmfd11 on December 2nd, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    the delorean had many chances to make money but the cocaine is what did them out

  51. Bob's Gravatar Comment by Bob on December 25th, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    This author is so dumb and misguided of what a failure is he didn’t include the Yugo automobile, marketed in the US. This car was a failure. Most of the others mentioned were longlived and successful. When newspapers go defunct because of online news this moron will call the newspaper industry a failure.

  52. Lee's Gravatar Comment by Lee on December 29th, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Heads up that isn’t a DeLorean, it’s a photo-shopped Lamborghini

  53. Susanna's Gravatar Comment by Susanna on April 29th, 2011 at 6:47 am

    The real reason why Atkins Nutritional went bust is that you can do Atkins diet by just purchasing fresh food and raw ingredients. That is, raw fish, raw meat, eggs, cheese and fresh vegetables. There simply was no need for Atkins nutritionals – the market niche was saturated already.

    Dr. Atkins was 6’6″ – he was a tall man – and he weighed 195 lb when he was brought to hospital. His body gathered and retained liquid as comatose patients often do, and the 63 lb he had gained weight in hospital was swollen liquid. Dr. Atkins had a hereditary heart disease, and he originally had developed his diet to treat it. He had the heart attacks before he developed his diet.

  54. Averre's Gravatar Comment by Averre on May 24th, 2011 at 6:05 am

    @ Lee

    It’s the original concept art of the the DMC-12. Why the author used concept art of the DMC-12 then used a actual picture of a Tucker is beyond me.

  55. Charles's Gravatar Comment by Charles on February 21st, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Is this really what counts as journalism, or just an op ed piece that required a half-conscious, binge drinking weekend? WTF is wrong with everyone?

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