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The 20 Greatest Business Comeback Stories Of All Time

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In a business, trouble can show up in the form of public relations disaster, poor management, recession, or even labor problems. If there is one thing that people globally love, it's a comeback story which is characterized by overcoming all odds in the face of challenge. There have been many great business comebacks throughout history.

Every once in a while some of the most popular brands in the market today fall off the map. When a business struggles with making profits, such times the business is left with only two choices: draft a comeback master plan or accept defeat and close.

In the event that the business chooses to make a comeback, a huge re-branding effort must come into play. There are companies that have persevered against all odds, staging a remarkable and unprecedented business comebacks to become successful, profitable enterprises once again.  See how some of the world’s famous companies brought themselves back from the brink of closure and bankruptcy.

1. Apple: It’s the Most Impressive Business Comeback

In 1985 Apple fired the founder of the company Steve jobs. What followed was a downfall of the company which was greatly influenced by the products they were offering such as Macintosh TV. The press then started writing the company eulogy due to the sore decrease in companies’ sales volume.

With the purchase of computer maker startup founded by Jobs, this saw his return. He quickly grabbed the management and control of the company and took three decisive steps toward making the company a trillion dollar worth:

  • A capital infusion was needed which Steve jobs took from Microsoft in exchange for rights to ship Microsoft office and internet explorer on the Macintosh.
  • Jobs diversified into making other products such as -iMacs, iPods, and iPhones.
  • Apple Stores were also opened putting his products front and center.

Today apple is one of the best companies in the world doing so well that it has been termed as one of the greatest business comebacks over the last three decades.

2. IBM Comeback

IBM was one on the pioneering companies that revolutionized personal computer in early 1980s. In 1990s, the company started losing its market share and the risk of being irrelevant faced the company. Losses amounting to $8 billion were announced from the technology investments the company heard invested in 1993, the biggest company loss in history up to that point.

The company took an action which was changing the management of the company and this saw Lou Gerstner recruited as the new CEO. Under the leadership of Gerstner the company invested in software line and IT services areas. Today the company has registered growth and its market cap is more than $ 210 billion.

3. General Motors

Late 2000s general motors faced huge losses and it filed bankruptcy. As a result tens of thousands of its workers were laid off. The sales were very low and the company’s future looked grim. In 2008 and 2009 general motors got a fusion cash from the United States government worth $51 billion to help keep its operations ongoing and running.

General motors in its process of restructuring its operations it did away with products such as Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer that were all underperforming. This cause of action saw general motors reemerge from bankruptcy in 2009. The government also decided to sell its shares and by the end of 2013, the government had sold all its shares, capping an impressive turnaround that saved an estimated 1.2 million jobs.

4. Marvel

Marvel being the home of Captain America and Spiderman has for so long been the comic-book world’s biggest player. In 1990s marvel went to bankruptcy and the comic book market crashed. This was due poor management and lack of innovation and creativity. In 1997 Marvel Entertainment Group joined hands with Toy Company and together formed Marvel Enterprises to stage a business comeback.

The management of marvel Enterprises decided to diversify and change its approach from paper and ink to movies. Great movies such as Iron man, X-men, Avengers were made and today marvel it’s a billion-dollar franchise and has made marvel to be one of the most popular brands of our time.

5. Delta

Delta was one of the biggest national airlines in United States and operated nearly 20 destinations around the globe. In mid-2000s Delta ran into trouble of being bankrupt due to high fuel costs and competition from other companies such as JetBlue and Southwest. The management of Delta Company started restructuring the airline by cutting jobs and vigorous expansions in Atlanta operations. Another move that Delta Company took was to renegotiate union contracts and expand its fleet with old planes other than buying new costly planes among other things.

6. Starbucks

In 2000s Starbucks over expanded its franchise globally and in return soaring profits and damaging the brand drastically. The situation was so bad that the stock price was cut in half. It was not until CEO Howard Schultz returned and changed Starbucks future.

Howard focused on giving customers quality products with consistency. He also created a channel where customers can present their voices and views thereby creating a relationship with them. Growth started being registered and the company once again enjoyed positive growth.

7. Thermax Business turnaround

Thermax was a company specializing in engineering and environmental systems. Labor and capital investment problems almost brought down this giant business in India to its grave. The Chairperson, Ms. Anu Aga as the CEO of the company, recommended exit of peripheral materials such as transmitters, bottled water and software. Ms Anu Aga focused on shedding the non-core activates, changing the management board and cost reduction. This move yielded fruits as the company opened branches in United Kingdom and United States and saw the company make a business turnaround.

8. Netflix

Qwikster was the Netflix greatest failure and bad strategy of making more profits. Qwikster was a service that Netflix created to separate unlimited streaming and DVDs dispatch by mail plan to be separate services. This move by the company created an exodus of more than a million subscribers who fled Netflix in a single quarter. The stocks shares plummeted from $300 a share to $ 65 by year’s end.

Although the company apologized and scrambled Qwikster they were not able to recover until the release of original series' such as House of cards which was launched in 2013. The stock shares sky rocketed once more to nearly $400 per share.

9. Disney Animation

In children entertainment industry Disney Company is well known for its animations. In 1990s after the release of The Lion King which was a great success for Disney animation it started releasing other products such as Hercules and fantasia 2000. AS a consequence the company was on a major backlash in early 2000s. It was only after acquiring Pixar in 2006 and Ed Catmull that the company started to rise into its former glory. The studio produced success hits like Tangled and Frozen

10. Ford motor company

Ford motor company is an example of an iconic company that once was broken but made a huge business comeback. Before Allan Mullaly took over the managerial position as the CEO of Ford in 2006 the company was going out of business. The stock price had fallen drastically to a very low amount of $1.01 a share in 2008.

The company financial problems didn't end there because they were in debt and in 2006 the company reported a loss of $12 billion. People widely expected ford to go out of business and file bankruptcy. However under the leadership of Mullaly the company made a business comeback becoming a history making revitalization by the year 2014.

11. Whitepages

Algard was the founder of white pages company while still a student at Stanford University. Unlike his entrepreneurial counterpart Steve Jobs, Algard didn't lose his position as the chief executive officer of Whitepages but he lost overall control of the company through private equity firms. Between the years 2005 and 2013 Algard worked his way in bringing back the outstanding shares of the still-private company.

12. Continental Airlines

When we talk about business comebacks we can’t forget to highlight Continental Airlines which has been recognized as one of the greatest comeback stories in aviation history although it eventually merged with United. Gordon Bethune was the man behind the reversal of the former flagging airline fortunes in 1994 when he took over.

Before Bethune took over the management of the airline Continental was on a downward trajectory: Customers usually rated the airline poorly in customer satisfaction surveys and as a consequence the airline suffered a loss in millions of dollars each year. During the tenure of Bethune, continental airline enjoyed a rebirth and once again it won the hearts of the customers.

Bethune focused on improving the management of the company and cultivating the relationship between the workforce and the management a move that paid off dividends

13. Tesla Motors

Elon Musk is the serial entrepreneur behind the invention two projects, Space X and Tesla Motors. Tesla motors is an example of a business comeback that has fought back from the verge of closing business. The California- based company met its problems when financing from major investors dried up. But Elon Musk restructured the company and through his efforts Tesla has thrived and is currently one of the biggest companies in the entire world. 

14. Gap

In 1990s Gap was the definitive brand in the line of fashionable clothes. In late 1990s Gap closed so many of its Northern America stores and some European branches. The closure of stores was attributed by cheap importation of clothes.

Mickey Drexler who was the CEO for 19 years focused on re-branding the company through campaigns that oversaw a positive change in GAP Company and He transformed the company products to a must-have brand. During his leadership the company increased sales to $14billion from $400 million and he increased the stores to 2,000 from 450.

15. Chrysler

In year 2000 Chrysler business experienced hard times as there were no sales being made. This was attributed by the fact that many of their customers preferred cheaper and more fuel efficient vehicles from countries like japan. What Chrysler experienced was more similar to its counterparts ford and General Motors. The move by most of its customers put Chrysler on the brink of death in year 2008.

Chrysler business comeback in 2008 is attributed by the help of the U.S government and the European- based Fiat. Since then, Chrysler has improved in its sales volume and many of the company’s brand like Dodge and Jeep are doing so well in the market

16. Priceline

Priceline was one of the few web companies that have been able to stage business comebacks after struggling with decline in market share in the early 2000s. In effective campaigns such as the famous “name your price” for airfare and hotel rooms didn't yield the expected results. CEO Jeffrey Boyd through a series of competitor acquisitions and trimming Priceline’s product offerings turned the company to its previous glory and success.

In travel industry Priceline has built a reputation of its self and has continued to challenge its competitors such as Kayak and Open Table. In stock market the company shares are valued over $1000 per share after being nearly de-listed.

17. Dr. Martens

The innovation of Dr. Martens boots came to be when Klaus martens injured his ankle while serving the German Army and found the army boots were very much uncomfortable and hurting. He ended up designing a pair of boots with air-padded soles. The boots were so impressive that the British shoe maker, R. Griggs Group bought the patent rights of Dr. Martens boots.

The boots went under some modifications like stitching them in yellow as the trademark and were sold under trade-name ‘AirWair.’ In late 1990s the sales of Dr. Martens boots decreased and most of the boots outlets got closed due to decrease in sales volume. It was until 2004 that Dr. Martens emerged again with the launch of vintage collection. Early 2012 Dr. Martens company was named the Eighth fastest growing company in Great Britain and had risen to the level of one of the most desirable boot makers across the globe

18. Keds

Keds shoes were so fashionable among girls in mid- 1980s to the mid -1990s. They were popular with oversized tees, sweaters, sweatshirts and pants. Keds shoes were every girls dream and even they were very popular among celebrities and hence they were a very popular brand in the history of foot wears. In 1990s the popularity of Keds brand started declining and the sales volume went down in an alarming state.

The population loosed interest with the shoes and many keds stores closed due to inability to sustain business. It was not until 2007 a designer Lepore re launched a Keds’ shoes with tags. Keds studios, were introduced and their main work was to offer customers customized designs according to their choices.This new effort brought back the lost popularity and since then Keds shoes has built a popular brand among girls.

19. Lego

Lego Company was founded by ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Denmark in 1932 and started the business by making wooden toys. In 1947, Lego changed the business of making wooden toys to making plastic toys and the company was an iconic name in the toy business. It was one of the best ideas that has made great sales in the history of toys mainly interlocking bricks.

Lego bricks became one of the favorite toys for children because of the nature of their innovation and friendliness. In 2003 Lego toys started suffering losses and the company was virtually out of cash. Lego recorded loses of $300 million and the following year it was projected a loss of $ 400 million. Creativity combined with smart management brought in by Jorgen Vig Knudstorp the CEO of Lego, ultimately saved the company.

He cut operation costs, introduced popular Lego lines like Ninjago and obtained franchises of ‘star wars.’ ‘Toy story’ and Lord of the Rings. It was through these efforts of the CEO that saw Lego regain its status as one of the most favorite toys in the market

20. Nintendo

Nintendo is the world’s largest video game manufacturer and was founded in 1889 but it was not until 1966 that the company started manufacturing video games. Some of the famous games Nintendo Company is famous for is Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros which were worldwide hit. It was in 1989 that the profits of Nintendo sky rocketed high after they launched Game Boy video game.

Sony the main rival of Nintendo launched ‘PlayStation 2’ in year 2000 and the future of Nintendo started getting dimmer and nearly they were on verge of being kicked out of the video game market. In 2006 Nintendo made a business comeback when it launched ‘Wii’, which is a game console that is based on motion sensing technology. With the launch of ‘Wii’, Nintendo has overtaken ‘Play Station 3’ as well as ‘Xbox 360’ and has taken its initial market share.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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