Capitalism can be a hard game to play. One day a business can be thriving and the next it can make a costly blunder that puts it at the edge of insolvency. It can be unpredictable who goes from successful to barely hanging on. The plus side is that it is just as unpredictable who can go from the brink of collapse to a position of strength again. Listed below are seven businesses who approached the abyss of failure and still made it to victory.
These days, it would be hard to find someone who isn’t at least aware of the cinematic juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. Yet, before movies like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War was raking in planets worth of money, Marvel was not the most solid investment. In 1996, Marvel was still strictly publishing comics. In the early 90’s, the comics industry was experiencing a massive collectors’ bubble that popped in the mid-90’s. Marvel declared bankruptcy and was ready to completely fold. The company began to sell the movie rights of their prominent characters such as Spider-Man and the X-Men which helped them pull the company out of the red. Since then, the movie model has been Marvel’s primary source of income and has made them among Disney’s more lucrative acquisitions.
Despite a reputation as a tech powerhouse of the 1980s and 2000s, Apple nearly fell into nonexistence in the 1990s following Microsoft’s meteoric rise. In 1997, Apple edged toward bankruptcy after losing $1 billion in a single year. Ironically, its salvation came in part from Microsoft who sent a $150 million investment presumably to keep Apple in business and prevent the headaches that come with becoming a de facto monopoly. Founder Steve Jobs then returned to the fold to build the iMac and the iPhone, leaving the rest to history.
Perhaps the most famous of the victims of the 2008 economic recession, General Motors stood on the edge of absolute collapse. The problems became so egregious that President Barack Obama had to commit to a controversial bailout package to save the auto industry. Since then, GM has paid back the bailout in full and enjoy better than expected success in recent years.
Thanks to Elon Musk, this entry is a two for one. Just like General Motors, Musk’s dual projects, SpaceX and Tesla, suffered hard from the 2008 recession. At one point, it was believed that Musk would have to cut one to save the other. Rather, Musk pulled a risky venture by refusing to sell off either one and banked on SpaceX’s deal with NASA to keep the two companies afloat. The gambit paid off and both projects are now synonymous with innovative tech companies.
Like Apple, IBM suffered heavy losses in the 1990s and a massive fracturing of the company seemed inevitable. Under this heavy cloud, Lou Gerstner came in as CEO to rescue the famous computer company. Gerstner underwent the unenviable task of massive layouts and a total restructuring of the company’s assets. After a complete transformation in culture and marketing, IBM came out on the other end as soluble again.
The American auto maker has actually tipped close to the end more than once through its existence. Chrysler suffered from the instability of the oil market in the late 1970s. At that time, the government bailed them out with $1.5 billion and saved the company. Chrysler then moved back into the black with inexpensive cars in the 1980s. The company then risked insolvency again during 2008 before Fiat took over the company’s reins, bringing the company back to viability again.
In the wake of retail stores such as Circuit City falling to the specter of 2008, Best Buy found itself on the line. In 2010, revenue was dropping, excerbated two years later by a sex scandal cover up involving the CEO. The company then completely reorganized the business, integrating online services into the customer service apparatus as well as introducing new exclusive products like Apple and Samsung. After innovative restructurings and shuttering struggling locations, Best Buy pulled back from failure and maintains a strong presence in electronic retail today.
Some of America’s greatest business monoliths can be vulnerable to insolvency. Whether through macro-level financial circumstances such as the 2008 collapse or industry-specific volatility, no private institution in America is immune to chaos. However, these same business are capable of bringing themselves back to stability and greatness. Circumstances may influence decisions but perseverance is what makes the decision.