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The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in U.S. History

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Doing business means taking calculated risks.

Regardless of whether you are opening a lemonade stand or you’re a leading executive at a Fortune 500 company, risk is an inevitable part of the game.

Taking bigger risks can generate proportional rewards – and sometimes, such as for the companies you’ll read about below, the risk-taking backfired to queue up some of the biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history.

Going For Broke

Today’s infographic comes to us from TitleMax, and it highlights the 20 biggest bankruptcies in the country’s history.

Companies below are sorted by total assets at the time of bankruptcy.

The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in U.S. History

There are times when companies are forced to push in all of their chips to make a game-changing bet. Sometimes this pans out, and sometimes the plan fails miserably.

In other situations, companies were actually unaware they were “all-in”. Instead, the potentially destructive nature of the risk was not even on the radar, only to be later triggered through a global crisis or unanticipated “Black Swan” events.

The Biggest Bankruptcies in the U.S.

Here are the 20 biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history, and what triggered them:

RankCompanyYearAssets at BankruptcyDownfall
#1Lehman Brothers2008$691 billion2008 financial crisis
#2Washington Mutual2008$328 billion2008 financial crisis
#3Worldcom Inc.2002$104 billionAccounting scandal
#4GM2009$82 billionMassive debt
#5CIT Group2009$71 billionCredit crunch
#6Pacific Gas & Electric2019$71 billionWildfires
#7Enron2001$66 billionFraud
#8Conseco2002$61 billionFailed acquisition strategy
#9MF Global2011$41 billionEuropean sovereign bonds
#10Chrysler2009$39 billionMassive debt
#11Thornburg Mortgage2009$37 billionDeclining mortgage values
#12Pacific Gas & Electric2001$36 billionDrought
#13Texaco1987$35 billionContract dispute
#14FCOA1988$34 billionSavings and loan crisis
#15Refco2005$33 billionAccounting fraud
#16IndyMac Bancorp2008$33 billionMortgage market collapse
#17Global Crossing2002$30 billionPlummeting world economy
#18Bank of New England1991$30 billionBad loans
#19General Growth Properties2009$30 billionFailed acquisition strategy
#20Lyondell Chemical2009$27 billionDecline in demand

The data set on the biggest bankruptcies is organized by assets at time of bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not in inflation-adjusted terms, meaning the list skews towards more recent events.

This makes the impact of the 2008 financial crisis particularly easy to spot.

The events and consequences relating to the crisis (loan defaults, illiquidity, and declining asset values) were enough to take down banks like Lehman Brothers and WaMu. The after effects – including a slumping global economy – led to a second wave of bankruptcies for companies such as GM and Chrysler.

In total, nine of the 20 biggest bankruptcies on the list occurred in the 2008-2009 span.

A Dubious Distinction

You may also notice that one company was on the list twice, and this was not an accident.

Pacific Gas & Electric, a California company that is the nation’s largest utility provider, has the dubious distinction of going bankrupt twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 2001, resulted from a drought that limited hydro electricity generation, forcing the company to import electricity from outside sources at exorbitant prices.

The more recent instance happened earlier this year. Facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from raging wildfires in California, the utility filed for Chapter 11 protection yet another time.

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The New Rules of Leadership: 5 Forces Shaping Expectations of CEOs

This infographic delves into five major forces reshaping our world and the new rules of leadership that CEOs should follow as a result.

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It’s common knowledge that CEOs assume a long list of roles and responsibilities.

But in today’s world, more and more people rely on them to go beyond their day-to-day responsibilities and advocate for broader social change. In fact, a number of external forces are changing how leaders are now expected to behave.

How can leaders juggle these evolving expectations while successfully leading their companies into the future?

The New Rules of Leadership

This infographic from bestselling author Vince Molinaro explores five drivers reshaping our world that leaders must pay attention to in order to bring about real change.

“the

How is the World Being Reshaped?

Leaders need to constantly stay one step ahead of the transformative forces that impact businesses on a broader scale.

Below we outline five key drivers that are changing what it means to be a leader in today’s world:

1. Transformative Technologies

Over the last number of decades, several technologies have emerged that could either accelerate the disruption of companies, or provide them with new opportunities for growth. According to KPMG, 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the previous 50 years.

For example, artificial intelligence (AI), can now provide companies with insights into what motivates their employees and how they can help them succeed. IBM’s AI predictive attrition program can even predict when employees are about to quit—saving them roughly $300 million in retention costs.

Leaders must accept that the future will be mediated by technology, and how they respond could determine whether or not their organization survives entirely.

2. Geopolitical Instability

Geopolitical risks—such as trade disputes or civil unrest—can have a catastrophic impact on a business’s bottom line, no matter its industry. Although 52% of CEOs believe the geopolitical landscape is having a significant impact on their companies, only a small portion say they have taken active steps to address these risks.

By being more sensitive to the world around them, leaders can anticipate and potentially mitigate these risks. Extensive research into geopolitical trends and leveraging the appropriate experts could support a geopolitical risk strategy, and alleviate some of the potential repercussions.

3. Revolutionizing the Working Environment

As the future of work looms, leaders are being presented with the opportunity to reimagine the inner workings of their company. But right now, they are fighting against a wide spectrum of predictions around what they should expect, with estimations surrounding the automation risk of jobs ranging from 5% to 61% as a prime example.

While physical, repetitive, or basic cognitive tasks carry a higher risk of automation, the critical work that remains will require human interaction, creativity, and judgment.

Leaders should avoid getting caught up in the hype regarding the future of work, and simply focus on helping their employees navigate the next decade.

By creating an inspiring work environment and investing in retraining and reskilling, leaders can nurture employee well-being and create a sense of connectedness and resilience in the workplace.

4. Delivering Diversity

Diversity and inclusion can serve as a path to engaging employees, and leaders are being asked to step up and deliver like never before. A staggering 77% of people feel that CEOs are responsible for leading change on important social issues like racial inequality.

But while delivering diversity, equity, and inclusion seems to be growing in importance, many companies are struggling to understand the weight of this issue.

An example of this is Noah’s Ark Paradox, which describes the belief that hiring “two of every kind” creates a diverse work environment. In reality, this creates a false sense of inclusion because the voices of these people may never actually be heard.

Modern day leaders must create a place of belonging where everyone—regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, or age—is listened to.

5. Repurposing Corporations

The drivers listed above ladder up to the fact that society is looking to businesses to help solve important issues, and leaders are the ones being held accountable.

With 84% of people expecting CEOs to inform conversations and policy debates on one or more pressing issues, from job automation to the impact of globalization, CEOs have the potential to transform their organization by galvanizing employees on the topics that matter to them.

For a long time, the purpose of corporations was purely to create value for shareholders. Now, leaders are obligated to follow a set of five commitments:

  1. Deliver value to customers
  2. Invest in employees
  3. Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers
  4. Support communities
  5. Generate long-term value for shareholders

Ultimately, these five commitments build currency for trust, which is critical for sustained growth and building a productive and satisfied workforce.

Lead the Future

If leaders understand the context they operate in, they can identify opportunities that could fuel their organization’s growth, or alternatively, help them pivot in the face of impending threats.

But organizations must invest in the development of their leaders so that they can see the bigger picture—and many are failing to do so.

By recognizing the new rules of leadership, CEOs and managers can successfully lead their organizations, and the world, into a new and uncertain future.

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3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output

The total U.S. GDP stands at a whopping $21 trillion, but which metro areas contribute to the most in terms of economic output?

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US Cities by Economic Output

3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output

At over $21 trillion, the U.S. holds the title of the world’s largest economy—accounting for almost a quarter of the global GDP total. However, the fact is that a few select cities are responsible for a large share of the country’s total economic output.

This unique 3D map from HowMuch puts into perspective the city corridors which contribute the most to the American economy at large.

Top 10 Metros by Economic Output

The visualization pulls the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA, 2018), and ranks the top 10 metro area economies in the country.

One thing is immediately clear—the New York metro area dwarfs all other metro area by a large margin. This cluster, which includes Newark and Jersey City, is bigger than the metro areas surrounding Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

RankMetro AreaState codesGDP (2018)
#1New York-Newark-Jersey CityNY-NJ-PA $1.77T
#2Los Angeles-Long Beach-AnaheimCA$1.05T
#3Chicago-Naperville-ElginIL-IN-WI$0.69T
#4San Francisco-Oakland-BerkeleyCA$0.55T
#5Washington-Arlington-AlexandriaDC-VA-MD-WV$0.54T
#6Dallas-Fort Worth-ArlingtonTX$0.51T
#7Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar LandTX$0.48T
#8Boston-Cambridge-NewtonMA-NH$0.46T
#9Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD$0.44T
#10Atlanta-Sandy Springs-AlpharettaGA$0.40T
Total GDP$6.90T

Coming in fourth place is San Francisco on the West Coast, with $549 billion in total economic output each year. Meanwhile in the South, the Dallas metroplex brings in $478 billion, placing it sixth in the ranks.

It’s worth noting that using individual metro areas is one way to view things, but geographers also think of urban life in broader terms as well. Given the proximity of cities in the Northeast, places like Boston, NYC, and Washington, D.C. are sometimes grouped into a single megaregion. When viewed this way, the corridor is actually the world’s largest in economic terms.

U.S. States: Sum of Its Parts

Zooming out beyond just these massive cities demonstrates the combined might of the U.S. in another unique way. Tallying all the urban and rural areas, every state economy can be compared to the size of entire countries.

US States and Country Comparison by GDP 2018

According to the American Enterprise Institute, the state of California brings in a GDP that rivals the United Kingdom in its entirety.

By this same measure, Texas competes with Canada in terms of pure economic output, despite a total land area that’s 15 times less that of the Great White North.

With COVID-19 continuing to impact parts of the global economy disproportionately, how will these kinds of economic comparisons hold up in the future?

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