Monday, February 9, 2009

BRANDS | Life and Death of Multinationals

My friend Michael Phillips sent an email today expressing scepticism about the awesome power of the "big global companies". He argues that despots like Mao, Stalin, Castro, Chavez, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Jong-il are much more durable. He refers back to a list he says he was the first to post on the Internet– the top 100 global companies in 1960. He compares that list to the top global companies in 2008.
Only eleven companies are on both lists. Another only has the same name (AT&T is not the same continuous company) and two of the eleven are about to collapse (Ford, GM). Four from the 2008 list are already out of business (Citigroup, Bank of Scotland, Merrill Lynch and Volkswagen).
So, he says, we have more to fear from dictators than multinationals. Dictators have the power to use weapons that with proliferation are becoming more dangerous.
Of the top hundred global companies today, among these ferocious demonic monsters, only eleven will still exist when today's 20 year-olds are retiring. Big global corporations are best compared to orchids, delicate hot house plants. They come and go, mostly go. Fear of big global companies is not a rational fear.
Food for thought. We should be enlisting multinational corporations in the cause of nonproliferation and peace. Nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states can't be good for most businesses.