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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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Retail

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

As price pressures and e-commerce reshape shopping behaviors, we show the top retail companies by domestic revenue around the world.

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This circle graphic shows the world's top retail companies by domestic revenue.

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The retail sector plays a vital role in powering economies, contributing $5.3 trillion annually to America’s GDP alone.

Moreover, the industry is America’s biggest private-sector employer, responsible for one of every four jobs, or 55 million employees. Yet in today’s challenging consumer environment, retailers are facing higher e-commerce penetration and inflationary pressures—across an industry notoriously known for razor-thin margins.

This graphic shows the world’s top retail companies by domestic revenue, based on data from the National Retail Federation.

Methodology

To be included in the rankings, companies must engage in a goods-for-consumer resale business accessible to the public and have direct selling operations in a minimum of three countries.

The rankings include both publicly and private companies, and are based on the most recent 52-week period analyzed by the National Retail Federation between January and March 2024. All revenue figures were converted to U.S. dollars.

Ranked: The Top 10 Global Retailers by Domestic Sales

Here are the leading retailers worldwide based on domestic sales as of 2023:

RankingRetailerDomestic Retail Revenue
(USD)
Share of Total Retail RevenueHeadquarters
1Walmart$532.3B85%🇺🇸 U.S.
2Amazon.com$250.0B70%🇺🇸 U.S.
3Costco$175.4B75%🇺🇸 U.S.
4The Home Depot$142.0B94%🇺🇸 U.S.
5Walgreens Boots Alliance$105.1B89%🇺🇸 U.S.
6Alibaba$91.5B97%🇨🇳 China
7Apple$70.9B87%🇺🇸 U.S.
8Aeon$64.3B93%🇯🇵 Japan
9Schwarz Group$56.5B32%🇩🇪 Germany
10Rewe$55.5B75%🇩🇪 Germany

Walmart towers ahead as the world’s largest retailer with $532 billion in domestic revenue—more than Amazon.com and Costco combined.

Known for its everyday low prices, Walmart achieves a competitive advantage through pricing goods approximately 25% cheaper than traditional retail competitors. Overall, groceries make up more than half of total sales. While its main customer base is often low and middle-income shoppers, the retail giant is seeing a surge in sales from higher-income customers as shoppers seek out lower grocery prices.

E-commerce giant, Amazon, is the second-biggest retailer globally, commanding nearly 40% of online retail sales in America. Since 2019, the number of Amazon employees has grown from 800,000 to over 1.5 million in 2023.

While the company has tried to introduce online grocery platforms to the market, it has largely fallen flat given its clunky system in a highly competitive market.

Like Amazon, China’s e-commerce juggernaut, Alibaba, stands as a leading global retailer. Overall, 97% of revenues were generated domestically through online marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. In recent years, the company has focused on international expansion, delivering products to 11 markets including America, in just five days.

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