Businesses can succeed for decades and even over a century, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll live on forever. Over the years, we’ve seen many companies that had a stronghold on an international basis, only to quickly fall into despair and completely go away in the snap of a finger. Out of all of the companies that have had to shutter, there are some that really stand out. Here are five of the most memorable large companies that went out of business.
1. Lehman Brothers
When people think of financial companies that went down in the 21st century, the first thought might be a newly-founded hedge fund or cryptocurrency company, but that wasn’t the case for Lehman Brothers. The investment firm was founded in 1850 in Montgomery, Alabama, and became one of the largest institutions in the United States with more than 26,000 employees.
During the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, many of the banks in the United States were bailed out as the feeling was they shouldn’t go under, but Lehman Brothers were left to collapse. The company officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2008 due to the subprime mortgage crisis and lost nearly $3 billion in just one quarter.
Those that grew up in the 1980s and 1990s remember what it was like to head to Blockbuster after school on a Friday, pick up a couple of video games and movies, and be glued to the television screen for the rest of the rainy weekend. What millennials also remember is that unique smell that every blockbuster had, but the company founded in Dallas, Texas in 1985 lost all but one of its stores and the 84,000+ employees along with it.
Blockbuster had a great business model for its time but failed to adapt to changes. The company had a chance to acquire Netflix for a low price but didn’t feel that the model would work. Within just a couple of years, Netflix became a massive success while Blockbuster has just one store left in Bend, Oregon.
3. Borders Bookstores
For many years, Borders went head-to-head with Barnes and Noble as the leading book retailer in the United States, but Borders was the newcomer to the block. Founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1971, Borders expanded quickly but was gone by the early 2010s after opening more than 500 stores nationwide.
The rise of Amazon as an online book retailer during the 1990s all but sealed Borders’ doom, and the company was acquired by its arch-rival Barnes and Noble. Borders made a profit in 2006, but it only took a little more than four years afterward to go bankrupt and shut down.
4. Toys R Us
It’s hard to believe that there was a time when some considered Toys R Us to be a monopoly of the industry and had well over 60,000 employees at its peak. With over 1,000 stores worldwide, Toys R Us was the only place to find certain brands of toys and video games, but that would all change dramatically starting in the 1990s, marking the beginning of the end for the favorite of Gen X’ers and older millennials alike.
Toys R Us lost a lot of its luster thanks to online retailers and the conversion of stores like Walmart into supercenters that sold the same toys for lower prices. Toys R Us couldn’t keep up, and began closing stores down in 2017 with the last closing in 2021.
5. Sports Authority
The United States is never going to suffer a shortage of sports enthusiasm, and Dick’s Sporting Goods is still doing just fine in the country. However, Sports Authority is no more after having more than 15,000 employees and nearly 500 stores at the time they decided to shut down. After opening in 1928 in Denver, Colorado for the first time, the headquarters moved to Florida during the 1980s and was doing just fine until the 1990s when it was acquired by none other than also-defunct retailer K-Mart.
In a confusing (at least in hindsight) move, Sports Authority merged with Gart Sports but took on a lot of debt in the process. More than a decade later, Sports Authority wasn’t able to climb out of its financial hole and closed down in the mid-2010s along with many other retailers.