Memorable Companies That Have Vanished

Memorable Companies That Have Vanished
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Memorable Companies That Have Vanished
Remember E.F. Hutton? General Foods? RCA? They were once household names, but not anymore. Take a walk down memory lane as we reminisce about some companies that made a name for themselves, but didn't stand the test of time.

Click through our gallery as we count down's picks for the top 25 most memorable companies that have vanished.
Many of us remember the car used in the 'Back to the Future' films, which was the trademark stainless steel DeLorean. The DeLorean Motor Company was formed in 1975 by auto executive John DeLorean, whose gull-wing door sports car model became the image for the entire company. Unfortunately, the DMC-12 sports car suffered from lack of actual demand, even with the huge amount of publicity. In 1982, the DeLorean Motor Company went into receivership and bankruptcy as a result.
' New Life for DeLorean?
PaineWebber was never the biggest brokerage on Wall Street, but it was part of the solid middle. It was founded in 1880 by William Alfred Paine and Wallace G. Webber. It survived a securities fraud scandal in the late 1930s, and by 1980 it had 161 branch offices in 42 states and six offices in Asia and Europe. In 2000, it merged with UBS AG, to become UBS PaineWebber, but in 2003, "PaineWebber" was dropped and replaced with UBS Wealth Management USA.
' More on Paine's Pain
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Merry-Go-Round was the darling of Wall Street and the suburbs where teens sold $70 rayon shirts for minimum wage plus commission. Its 536 stores comprised Merry-Go-Round, Dejaiz, Cignal and Chess King. Sadly, the mid-nineties teen did not want to wear v-neck sweater vests, mesh, or paisley rayon blouses. The business was so overtly trendy it tipped over the edge. Merry-Go-Round filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1994, but couldn't stay afloat and liquidated all its assets in 1996. Cheesy & Sleazy?
The number of brands associated with the food processing giant was many and varied, including Altoids, Butterball, Peter Pan and Tropicana, to name a few. Not bad for a small egg and milk packager from Beatrice, Nebraska. Founded in 1894, by 1984, annual sales were about $12 billion. Shortly thereafter, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts acquired a controlling stake in Beatrice through a leveraged buyout. Over the next few years, KKR sold off Beatrice assets. In 1990, what remained was sold to ConAgra Foods.
' More Names Linked to Beatrice
George Pullman founded the Pullman Palace Car Company in Illinois in 1867. The company had a long and illustrious business cycle that spanned more than a century. Just when things were in high gear, the government intervened. In the interest of antitrust laws, Pullman Inc. was ordered to divest itself of either the Pullman Company (operating) or the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (manufacturing). After three years of negotiation, the Pullman Company was sold to a railroad consortium for approximately $40 million. More on Pullman
Eastern began as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in the mid-1920s, but through acquisition and expansion came to dominate much of the domestic travel industry along the profitable East Coast corridor by the 1950s. The airline thrived into the 1970s, when it was one of the "big four" major U.S. airlines. However, the carrier struggled after the Air Transportation Deregulation Act of 1978. Deteriorating labor relations forced it into bankruptcy in 1989, at the time the largest airline bankruptcy in U.S. history. It ceased operations in 1991. A Revival in Store?
Although the name Lionel, synonymous with electric model trains, is still the hallmark of that toy genre, the current rights holder, Lionel LLC, is in no way directly connected to the original Lionel Corporation. A series of critical yet unsuccessful business moves drove Lionel Corp. to bankruptcy in 1967. In 1969, its toy train legacy was sold in its entirety to General Mills. And in 1993 it ceased operations altogether. Lionel LLC now owns all its trademarks and most of its product rights. Today, all that remains of the original Lionel Corp. is the stalwart Lionel name. Choo Choo
In the mid-1980s, Barry Minkow was the toast of Wall Street. His Zzzz Best Carpet Cleaning company, which he started in his garage at age 16, was an overnight success and, by 19, he was a millionaire. Investors flocked to buy stock in the fast-growing company that was earning millions from lucrative restoration projects. There was just one problem: the restoration projects weren't real, the company was little more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme. The scheme unraveled, Zzzz Best filed for bankruptcy and Minkow spent seven and a half years in Federal prison. More
RCA was established in 1919. As the years went by, it sold radios and became involved in broadcasting. In 1929, it bought out the Victor Talking Machine company, thus becoming RCA Victor with the famous dog logo. As the RCA life cycle began to naturally wind down because of financial missteps during its later years, GE eventually took it over in 1986 and began a series of transactions to extract value from it. Today, the RCA brand lives on through licensing deals, even though the original RCA entity is technically gone.
' What RCA Stands For
Founded in 1952 in Coudersport, Penn., Adelphia's name came from the Greek word for brother. The company went public in 1986 and grew by acquisition
-- buying up smaller cable providers. The company went bankrupt in 2002 after disclosing $2.3 billion in debt that was kept off the balance sheet. Federal prosecutors charged the Rigas brothers of looting the company of an estimated $100 million and spreading cash to family businesses. Both men were found guilty and in 2007 started serving time in a Federal prison in Raleigh, N.C. Full Adelphia Post will go down in history as a textbook example of dot-com flame-out, going from IPO to liquidation in nine short months. Founded in 1998, the company, which sold pet food and supplies to the public via the Internet, went public in February 2000 and raised $82.5 million. But by November the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Rival aquired some of the company's assets. Other famous dot-com busts included eToys,, Webvan to name a few.
' The Best Thing About It?
"When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen," claimed the well-known slogan from the respected broker's ubiquitous ads in the 1970s and 1980s. Well, it seems the stock market crash of 1987, bad press from money laundering and fraud scandals along with the firm's deep debt had people stopped listening. In 1987, Hutton agreed to be acquired by Shearson Lehman Brothers. Several mergers later what remains of the once proud firm is now part of Citigroup, Inc. The E.F. Hutton Scandals
Once upon a time, there was a computer brand called Compaq. It was one of the largest sellers of PCs in the entire world in the 1980s and 1990s. Then 2002 comes and Hewlett-Packard Corp. merges with the company. The end. Well, sounds like a short-lived story, and in actuality, it was. Compaq existed for only 20 years (1982 - 2002) before being gobbled up by then-CEO Carly Fiorina of HP to make HP's market share as large as possible.
' How Compaq Came About
It's hard to believe these days, but at one time Burger Chef was the number two fast-food burger chain in the U.S., second only to McDonald's. It's easy to forget as well that it pioneered many of the things that its rivals became known for, including flame-broiled burgers and value combo meals. Founded in 1954, it grew rapidly, reaching 2,400 locations by 1970. General Foods bought Burger Chef in 1968, but the pace of growth stalled, and it was sold to the parent company of Hardees in 1982. Most locations were converted to Hardees, and by 1996 it was no more. More
Drexel's driving force was junk bond impresario Mike Milken. Milken made money by selling junk bonds to takeover artists who threatened companies by buying up their shares and proposing to throw out their managers. In many cases the companies bought out the takeover artist's shares at a premium to make them go away. Milken paid $650 million in fines and pleaded nolo contendere to six felonies. He went to jail from March 1991 until January 1993. Drexel filed for bankruptcy in 1990. More on Milken
Founded in 1930, TWA peaked in the early 1980s. But deregulation and a lack of investment in new aircraft hit the airline hard, and it was acquired by Carl Icahn in 1985 in a hostile takeover. Icahn took the company private in 1988, pocketing nearly $500 million for himself while saddling the company with $540 million in debt. Four years later, stripped of its most valuable assets and struggling with massive debt payments, TWA declared bankruptcy. Finally, American Airlines bought TWA in 2001.
' TWA's Difficulties
Among General Foods' many product offerings were Sanka decaffeinated coffee and Tang. General Foods also continued to make acquisitions, including the makers of Kool-Aid, the Burger Chef restaurant chain and Oscar Mayer. But late in 1985, General Foods was itself acquired by Philip Morris (which later became Altria Group). When Philip Morris acquired Kraft in 1988, the two food companies were merged. In 2007, Altria spun off Kraft Foods.
' More on General Foods
Arthur Andersen (1913 to 2002) spent decades as a leading accounting and consulting firm. Founded in 1913, it was once a member of the "Big 8" accounting firms, which later became the "Big 5." Andersen's downfall was its role as Enron's auditor. It used its credibility to bless Enron's special purpose entities and a whole host of illegal accounting. In 2002, the firm voluntarily surrendered its licenses to practice as CPAs after being found guilty of criminal charges, resulting in the loss of 85,000 jobs.
' More on Andersen's Past
Starting as Long Distance Discount Services in 1983, it changed its name to WorldCom in 1995. A series of mega-mergers transformed the company. It was rechristened MCI WorldCom in 1998. Then the telecom industry started a prolonged downturn. Management resorted to accounting tricks to try to keep the stock afloat. By 2002, an elaborate accounting fraud was revealed. In bankruptcy, it changed its name back to MCI. In 2006 Verizon purchased MCI, and most of its operations became what is now called Verizon Business. More on MCI
Standard Oil (1870 - 1911) was the dominant oil company in the world until it was felled by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. In 1911, the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil had violated the Act through its tactics of using low prices to wipe out competitors. The result was a breakup of the company into what is now Chevron, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips.
' The Genius Behind Standard Oil?
Pan American World Airways, or Pan Am, was an international airline that was in business from 1927 through 1991, when it ceased its operations after over a decade of mounting financial losses and declared bankruptcy. The company, despite being defunct for seventeen years, is still well remembered in pop culture. The blue circular logo has made such an impression that it is put on designer travel bags to signify traveling in luxury today.
' More Pan Am Memories
Starting in 1872 as a single sheet catalog, Montgomery Ward opened its first retail store in 1926. By the mid 1960s, the company's catalog sales began to weaken and the company struggled into the 1970s. It sputtered through the 1980s and 1990s, moving always one step forward and two steps back. On December 28, 2000, after a poor holiday sales performance, the company announced its intention to cease operations, and by May of 2001, Montgomery Ward stores had all closed.
' Who's Using the "Wards" Name?
AMC was formed in 1954 in an effort to challenge the "Big Three" automakers. Sticking with its strengths in fuel economy, it introduced the Gremlin in 1970. The AMC Pacer followed in 1975. The company faced recalls of its products and stopped paying dividends to its investors. When no bank would loan AMC more money, it turned to French automaker Renault for help. By 1983, all AMC models were rebranded as either a Renault or a Jeep. In 1987, struggling Renault sold its stake in AMC to Chrysler, where it became the Jeep-Eagle division. More on AMC
Founded in 1879, Woolworth's became the model for five-and-dimes throughout the U.S. As the era of the enclosed shopping mall arose, Woolworth's responded by acquisition and expansion, buying such specialty shops as Kinney Shoes, Champs Sports, and Foot Locker. But rapid expansion proved to be the company's undoing. By 1997 all Woolworth's shops had closed. In 2001, the company changed its name to Foot Locker.
' More Woolworth's History
Has there ever been a company that had such a spectacular rise and fall as this Houston-based energy company? Enron had 22,000 employees and claimed revenues of $111 billion in 2000 before its massive accounting fraud came to light. It is now the symbol of corporate fraud and corruption and its 2001 bankruptcy is the largest in U.S. history.
' Life Lessons From Enron
Six years before Enron's historic collapse another company had its own unbelievable ending. 233-year-old London-based Barings Bank, which helped finance the Louisiana Purchase in 1802, had a very quick demise in 1995 when a rogue trader named Nick Leeson (pictured left) lost $1.4 billion speculating on Singapore Futures. When the losses were revealed, the Queen's personal bank and the financier of the Napoleonic Wars was forced to default on its accounts. More on Barings Bank
May 29, 2008 marked the end for the 85-year-old financial powerhouse Bear Stearns. Problems started appearing in July 2007, after two of the companies hedge funds imploded. After months of heavy writedowns, thanks to the subprime mortgage crisis, things came to a head in March when rumors began to swirl about Bear Stearns financial health. In mid-March JP Morgan offered $2/share for the company and in late May the fifth-largest investment bank in the U.S. was no more.
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Remember E.F. Hutton? General Foods? RCA? They were once household names, but not anymore. Take a walk down memory lane as we reminisce about some companies that made a name for themselves, but didn't stand the test of time.

Click through our gallery as we count down's picks for the top 25 most memorable companies that have vanished.
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