Small businesses are often hailed as the saviors of America, but every would-be magnate knows that the real money is in massive conglomerates that control dozens -- or even hundreds -- of companies. However, Wall Street's endless parade of buyouts and mergers, divisions and revisions has created a tangled business environment in which companies that are famous for one thing often own brands that are completely different -- or even diametrically opposed.
While there is no lack of bizarre brand bedfellows in the pantheons of corporate power, here are seven of our favorites:
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Did You Know They Did That?
They may seem like the most logical matchups, but see how extreme diversification helps shape these companies' bottom lines.
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Nothing beats Clorox (CLX) bleach when it comes to removing stains, and the company's other cleaning products -- including Pine-Sol, Tilex, Liquid Plum'r and Formula 409 -- comprise a veritable pantheon of tools for cleaning up life's little messes. However, the famed cleaning company also has a messy little secret: It has discovered a way to make money on both sides of the stain spectrum. In addition to its various stain-fighters, Clorox also owns barbecue sauce leader KC Masterpiece, food additive Kitchen Bouquet, salad dressing Hidden Valley Ranch and even leading charcoal briquettes Kingsford, all of which do their part to create stains -- and drum up business for Clorox.
Its classic tagline, "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" makes a lot of sense. After all, Sara Lee cheesecake is famous, and the company's other brands -- including Sunbeam bread, Jimmy Dean sausage and Ballpark franks -- all have won hard-earned spots among America's favorite foods. But for bugs, the food giant has a dark side: In addition to pastries and snacks, it also makes Chemitox, Vapona, Ridsect and nine other insecticide brands.
With its Titleist golf clubs, Fortune (FO) brands makes it possible for everyone to pursue their Tiger Woods dreams. Then again, if your fantasies of a hole-in-one end with you drowning your sorrows at the 19th hole, you could always try some of Fortune's other products -- including Jim Beam bourbon, Canada Club whiskey and Hornitos Tequila.
When it comes to controlling messes, Koch Industries is another business giant that's really cleaned up. Between Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper, Mardi Gras napkins, Quilted Northern toilet paper and Stainmaster carpet, the company has made billions by making it easy to wipe up spills. That should come in handy if Koch's other major business -- including its numerous oil refineries and over 4,000 miles of oil, natural gas and chemical pipelines -- ever spring a leak.
While Leucadia's (LUK) holdings in offshore drilling, lumber products and plastic netting are impressive, the company seems to have a definite theme when it comes to hard living. Between its popular Hard Rock casino and resort in Biloxi, Miss., and Leucadia's high-end Crimson wine group, it offers everything that one needs for a fun weekend. And if your sojourn with the hard-rock lifestyle leads you to go the whole Keith Richards route, Leucadia is ready to help with its wide variety of blood transfusion products.
Warren Buffett's famed holding company started life as a Massachusetts-based cloth manufacturer. In 1964, angry about stock manipulation, Buffett bought Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) in order to fire its president, Seabury Stanton. Soon after, he began replacing the cloth business with what became a staggeringly eclectic array of brands, from insurance giant Geico to paint leader Benjamin Moore, from direct-sale favorite Ginsu knives to caloric giant Dairy Queen. In 2004, however, Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway came full circle and returned to clothing with its purchase of underwear titan Fruit of the Loom.
National Presto Industries
For fans of quirky kitchen appliances, Presto (NPK) is a household name. With brands like the FryBaby, the FryDaddy, the PowerPop and the SaladShooter, Presto has squeezed its way into the national consciousness. However, salad isn't the only thing Presto is shooting: A division of the company produces ammunition and ordnance for the U.S. military. And if all that banging and crashing makes you a little too nervous, Presto has you covered: Another division makes adult incontinence pads.
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