The Biggest Business Comebacks in History

Life is filled with ups and downs and this holds true for many businesses as well. While a business idea may seem good at first it stands the risk of getting burned as they are faced by increased competition. These companies can also lose their status when business troubles show up.

However, there’s nothing we love more than a comeback story and every now and then we hear about a company that bounced back from its struggles. Instead of taking the easy way out, these companies beat all the odds and used their business acumen to become a successful enterprise once again. Here are the biggest business comebacks in history.

Apple Inc. Voted Steve Jobs Out of the Company in 1985

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Drew Angerer via Getty Images
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

We start this list with what can be called the biggest comeback in the history of businesses- Apple Inc. This iconic company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniack faced numerous lows during its initial years.

During Apple’s integral years the management of the company was not happy with Job’s performance and voted him out of the company. Even though this was a huge blow for Jobs, who founded the company, he went on to transform Pixar into the massive movie studio it is today. 15 years later, Jobs returned to Apple where he became the major force behind the iPhone and the iPad that has revolutionized the tech industry.

Lou Gerstner Saved IBM From $8 Billion in Losses

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Tim Boyle via Getty Images
Tim Boyle via Getty Images

IBM helped revolutionize the personal computer industry and was one of the first companies to introduce the technology used in computers today. The company was founded in the 1980s and flourished in its initial years. But in the 1990s the company was at risk of losing its market share as it was faced by intense competition.

During this period, the company’s losses amounted to $8 billion. Instead of admitting defeat, the company decided to restructure its management and take action. They decided to hire Lou Gerstner who helped bring the company out of losses. He invested in the IT and software areas of the business which paid off. Today the company has a market cap of $210 billion.

Marvel Comics Transitioned to Film

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Mario Tama via Getty Images
Mario Tama via Getty Images

Marvel Comics was the brainchild behind characters like Spiderman and Captain America. The company was a major player in the comic book space for many years. However, in 1990 the comic book industry faced a downturn and Marvel had to file for bankruptcy. One reason for this was the lack of innovation in the new comics.

In 1997, the company decided to merge with Toy Company to plan a major comeback. They changed their business model from comic books to movies. This was a move in the right direction as movies like the Avengers and Iron Man have done incredibly well in the box office.

Delta Had to Rethink Once Their Competition Increased

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Scott Olson via Getty Images
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Delta airlines was one of the most popular national airlines in the United States and around the globe. While the company had some high years, they faced financial troubles in the mid-2000s with bankruptcy charges. This was due to increased competition from other local airlines like JetBlue and Southwest and high fuel costs.

The management at Delta airlines decided to take some strict measures to combat their struggles. They expanded their Atlanta regional airlines and cut back on jobs to save costs. In addition to this, they renegotiated their union contracts and expanded their airline fleet by remodeling old planes.

General Motors Bounced Back From The Recession

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Bill Pugliani via Getty Images
Bill Pugliani via Getty Images

One of the biggest comebacks in American history is General Motors. The company saw roaring success in its early years but during the recession, they almost went under. However, using the right business tactics, General Motors was able to come back to life.

The company cut back on costs and revamped its supply chain and manufacturing departments. Additionally, they increased investment in the research division and introduced various models which led to a stream of income. They were able to sell 10 million cars in 2014 to rank as the third-largest automaker in the world.

Whitepages’ CEO Personally Invested in the Business

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William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The company Whitepages was founded out of a Stanford University dorm room by Alex Algard who still remains the CEO of the company. Algard was not forced out of the company but he did lose a substantial stake in the business in 2005 when a minority stake was acquired by two private equity firms for $45 million.

However, in 2013, Algrad bought back his stake in the company that was still privately held. He then used his role to build Whitepages into the successful company it is today. He invested in the business for the long-term which paid off as they were able to double their profits in 18 months.

Elon Musk Restructured Tesla Motors During the Recession

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Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

One entrepreneur who has withstood numerous business blows and proved critics wrong is Elon Musk. He’s the founder of both Space X and Tesla Motors which are both incredibly successful companies.

During the recession, Tesla almost went bankrupt as many automakers faced a period of low sales. This did not affect Musk’s vision for the company as he restructured the business from the bottom up and generated large amounts of money. Today the company has a market cap of $31.3 billion.

Mickey Dexler Rebranded Gap Inc.

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Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

In the early 90s, Gap was one of the most famous clothing brands in the U.S and around the world. However, the companies faced financial difficulties towards the end of the decade and were forced to shut down numerous stores. This was partly due to the low quality of the clothes produced.

Their business comeback can be attributed to Mickey Dexler who was appointed as CEO. He focused on rebranding the company and changing the style and aesthetic of the brand. Dexler’s transformation of the company led to an increase in sales of $400 million.

House of Cards Helped Save Netflix

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ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP via Getty Images
ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP via Getty Images

Netflix found success with its streaming service for movies and TV shows that became a huge hit with the millennial generation. However, the company introduced a new service in 2011 called Qwikster that was separate from Netflix where people would have to pay to receive DVDs by mail. This came at an additional cost from Netflix and consumers were not happy about it. The company lost 800,000 customers in just three months.

The company quickly removed Qwikster and focused on developing the Netflix subscription service. They were not able to fully recoup their losses until the launch of House of Cards which increased the stock price to $400 a share.

Howard Schultz Returned To Save Starbucks

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Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Over the course of its existence, Starbucks had many good years. When the company went public, it boosted the company’s valuation to $250 million. Starbucks continued to expand until the recession when they were met with financial troubles. During this time, Howard Schultz was not actively involved with the company.

Eight years after his departure, Schultz returned to the company with the aim of transforming the business into the successful global chain it once was. He temporarily shut down the Starbucks outlets to train employees on how to make coffee in an efficient manner without sacrificing the quality. He put the quality back into the company which reflected in its numbers. The company is now worth $48 billion.

Wii Revitalized Nintendo in 2006

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Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian via Getty Images

Nintendo is one of the first companies in the world to create video games in 1996. In its initial years, the company had a lot of success with games like Super Mario and Donkey Kong. To make it easier for players to access their games, Nintendo introduced the Game Boy but they were soon pushed out of the market when Sony Introduced the Play Station.

Instead of backing out of the market, Nintendo pushed back with the Wii in 2006 which uses motion sensor technology to mimic the player’s hand movements in the game. This playing console was incredibly successful and beat out the Play Station and the XBOX 360 for the majority market share.

Gordon Bethune Raised the Bar for Continental Airlines

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Mario Tama via Getty Images
Mario Tama via Getty Images

One of the biggest business comebacks in the aviation sector has to be Continental Airlines. Most of the company’s success can be attributed to Gordon Bethune who was able to bring about a significant increase in the company’s finances.

When Bethune took over as CEO of the company, Continental Airlines had a reputation for being a low-quality airline. He took action immediately and focused on improving the current management and cultivated a culture of quality in the organization. This paid off as the company won the JD Power Award for customer satisfaction.

Keds Allowed Customers to Customize Their Shoes

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Ben Gabbe via Getty Images for Keds
Ben Gabbe via Getty Images for Keds

In the 80s and 90s, Keds shoes were incredibly popular among young girls and were often worn with jeans and sweatshirts. The company had some good years and their shoes were loved by teen girls all over the world. However, Keds soon faced a decline in sales and had to shut down many stores.

In 2007, Keds hired a shoe designer who redesigned the shoes to allow customers to customize their sneakers. The ability to put your own spin on your shoes was a fairly new concept at that time and did well among teens. Keds continues to remain a popular brand today.

Lego’s Jorgen Vig Kundstrop Had Some New Ideas

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MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/AFP via Getty Images
MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/AFP via Getty Images

The Lego company was founded by Kirk Christiansen in 1932 and sold wooden toys at first. The company soon switched over to plastic toys and became a huge player in the toy industry. It quickly became a favorite among kids for its innovation. However, in 2003, Lego faced a drop in sales and lost almost $300 million in revenue.

Soon after this Jorgen Vig Kundstrop took over and CEO and used his management skills and creativity to put the company back on the radar. Lego bought franchises in Star Wars and Toy Story while cutting back on operational costs. Today, they remain a successful company.

Shutterfly Tightened Their Purse Strings When Necessary

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Getty Images
Getty Images

Shutterfly is an online photo printing service that faced severe competition in its early years until the dot com crash happened. While a lot of tech companies went under during this time, Shutterfly came out unscathed. They did this with a combination of good investors and cost-cutting techniques.

After their initial round of funding, the company adopted a slow-growth strategy. So when the dot com crash happened, they were able to weather out this turbulent period. Today the company has a more aggressive business strategy which has led to their higher market share.

Converse Shoes Found A New Customer Base

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Mario Tama via Getty Images.
Mario Tama via Getty Images.

The shoe company Converse was founded in 1917 and had a lot of success with their basketball shoe named after Charles (Chuck) Hollis Taylor. This was the first partnership between an athlete and a shoe company.

However, companies like Nike and Adidas entered the shoe market and pushed Converse out, forcing them to file for bankruptcy in 2001. Their market share fell to just 2.3 percent. The era of rock and roll brought Converse back into the spotlight and they were soon bought for $305 million by Nike. The Chuck Taylor shoes are popular even today.

Burberry’s Trenchcoat Revived the Brand

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Getty Images for Burberry
Getty Images for Burberry

The fashion brand Burberry has a very specific style which ultimately led to their downfall as they were unable to keep up with the latest trends. While many people thought that Burberry would never become the high-profile brand it once was, they made a major comeback thanks to the efforts of Angela Ahredts and Rosie Marie Bravo.

They hired the designer Christopher Bailey who used Apple as inspiration to create the iconic Burberry trench coat. This brought Burberry back into the limelight where it continues to dominate as a major brand in the fashion industry.

CEO Allan Mullaly Cut Costs to Make Up For Ford’s Losses

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Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

While the Ford Motor Company had a few good years, they soon faced intense competition and almost went out of business. They faced a loss of $12 billion in 2006 and many people expected them to file for bankruptcy, given the low stock price.

In the same year, Allan Mullaly took over as the CEO of Ford and changed up the current management in the company while implementing action points to lower costs and increase revenue. His efforts paid off as the company is one of the top car manufacturers in the world today.

Priceline Bounced Back in a Big Way

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Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images LightRocket via Getty Images
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images LightRocket via Getty Images

The travel agency Priceline was incredibly popular when it was first introduced and many analysts predicted the company would be wildly successful. But they soon lost the attention when their stock price sunk from $1000 to $0.60. Nobody thought the company would survive this but it did.

The company gained traction in 2009 when they slowly grew to earn a net income of $437 million. They focused their efforts on bringing high-quality service at an affordable price. The stock price was at $1.06 in 2000 but has risen to $1500 in 2015.

Western Digital Partnered With IBM

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Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Western Digital made a fortune in its early years selling computer chips and OEM hard disks. While they hit their peak sales in the 90s, it slowly began to dip as the hard disks they produced were no longer needed in computers. In order to stay relevant in the market, the company partnered with IBM to create new products.

They used the technologies made by IBM in their facilities to create a line of hard-drives to meet the needs of the modern computer. This helped Western Digital make a huge comeback and they went on to expand their market through the purchase of companies like SanDisk.

Polaroid Is Back In Fashion

A man looks through the lens of a polaroid camera.
Jim Bennett/Getty Images
Jim Bennett/Getty Images

Polaroid was a sensation in the 1970s for being the only camera to offer instant photos. However, the very first Polaroid came out in 1948 and was a four-pund hunk of inconvenient metal. Nevertheless, department stores sold out right away.

The 1970s version took a whopping 2 million to make, but was another big success until Sony’s Betamax videotape knowcked them out of the park. In 2001 Polaroid went bankrupt. Then the Impossible Project got Polaroid’s last film factory up and running again. Today, the Polaroids have met a knew generation of hipsters, artists, and historians.

Thermax Made Some Vital Adjustments

A Thermax employee works on a metal instrument.
Umesh Goswami/The The India Today Group via Getty Images
Umesh Goswami/The The India Today Group via Getty Images

The engineering and environmental systems company, Thermax, is based out of India and is run by CEO Anu Aga. Like many companies, labor was a huge expense. The shortage of capital investments nearly brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy.

To solve this dilemma, Anu Aga devised a cost-reduction plan that changed the management board and omitted activites that were not essential. Thanks to this vital move, the company was able to open offices in the United Kingdom and the United States, which sent business soaring.

Disney Animation Needed Pixar

People enter the Walt Disney studios building.
Salvatore Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Salvatore Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the widespread popularity and notoriety of Disney, who is arguably one of the most famous animators to exist, you wouldn’t think that Disney Animation was once in trouble. However, the company recieved backlash in the early 2000s due to less impressive films.

The lesson here is that having such a high standard is both a blessing and a curse. With Dreamworks bumping out CGI films, it was time for Disney to step up its game in terms of both story-telling and technology. That’s what led them to buying Pixar in 2006 and re-establishing themselves as the king of family films.

Chrysler Lacked Efficiency

A closeup of a vintage Chrysler shows its logo.
Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Car buyers seem more focused on mileage now than ever thanks to escalating gas prices and the advent of fuel-efficient vehicles. However, electronic cars aren’t what sent Chrysler spiraling downward in the early 2000s, cars with better mileage did.

By 2008 most of Chryslers customers were looking towards companies from countries like Japan that offered smaller cars with better mileage,especially thanks to the recession. As a result, George W. Bush stepped in with a $4 billion bailout. The following January Fiat decided to make a deal with Chrysler, and before long they were back and running.

The Era Of Vintage Save Dr. Martins

A photo reveals a pile of Dr. Martens shoes.
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Martins began when former soldier Klaus Martens injured his ankle and took a critical look at his army boots. He designed boots with air-padded soles as an alternative. The impressive boots were then bought out by the R. Griggs Group and named Dr. Martens.

As a trademark, the stiching was made yellow and became a stylish phenomenon. However, they saw a nose dive in the 1990s as sales dropped. In 2004, the company decided to try on a vintage collection. By 2012 Dr. Martins were declared the fastest growing company in Great Britain.

Member’s Only Was Saved By The Retro Movement

A male and female model their Members Only jackets.
Members Only/Facebook
Members Only/Facebook

Member’s Only was a clothing brand that hit the ’80s with the catchphrase “When you put it on, something happens.” They were primarily known for their jackets which could be recognized by their narrow epaulettes, collar strap, and knitted trim.

As time went on, their look became regarded as dated and thus lost steam. However, they picked back up in 2004 thanks to the vintage look becoming all the rage. It’s no surprise that their brand can be seen in retro stores such as Urban Outfitters.

Myspace Is All About Music

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Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many regard Myspace as the precursor to Facebook since it set precedence for the platform and similar social media sights, like Tumblr and Linked In. However, it also was one of the most negatively impacted sites by Facebook’s launch in 2008.

However, the battle isn’t over yet. Justin Timberlake has recently assisted with a relaunch of Myspace that features a new design catered towards musicians. Social media has long been a place where artists can be discovered, and Myspace hopes to become a favorite for artistic content.

Birkenstocks Are Back

The birken
Birkenstock/Facebook
Birkenstock/Facebook

Birkenstocks hit the scene in the 1960s as an athletic sandal. However, the legacy dates back to 1774 with shoemaker Johann Birkenstock. Over 100 years later, Johann’s great-great-grandson revived the business by creating inserts.

He used the inserts as the foundation for a new kind of sandal that would become popular amongst returning soldiers in the mid 20th century. Then Nordstroms picked up the shoe in 1986, and they became a 90s smash hit. After falling out of style in the 2000s, Birks have made a comeback thanks to the newfound vintage wave and their animal-friendly production.

Cadillac Had To Reinvent Itself

A young woman shows off a new Cadillac.
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Cadillac spent the better part of the 20th century on the top of America’s luxury dealership list. But by the 1990s, the company has lost its glammer. The average buyer was a senior citizen while younger generations were more interested in the BMW, Lexus, or Mercedes-Benz brands.

Sales dropped 16% in the 90s, meaning that it needed to re-establish itself and fast. Their revival began with the Escalade, a slick SUV that brought the tired brand back into the limelight. The company headquarters abandoned the graveyard of Detroit for upscale New York in 2015.

Old Spice Meets Terry Crews

Terry Crews and Isaiah Mustafa flex their biceps in front of an Old Spice ad.
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Old Spice came out in 1937, back when men were prided on being super macho. However, the same generation that brought them to prominence also aged the brand. What was manly and tasteful gradually became old and unattractive.

That’s why when the brand sold to Proctor and Gamble in 1990, they knew it would need a little spicing up. To do the job they hired buff comedian Terry Crews to head their commercials. The new face reinformed the brand by targeting teens. The cycle has already begun to repeat with new spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa.

Gap’s Former CEO Boosted J.Crew

A woman walks into a J.Crew store.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

J.Crew is one of those pricey companys that sells basic items whose worth is in its versatility. The company was founded in 1947 but didn’t become its own store until 1989, after its annual sales exploded throughout the ’80s. The company started to struggle in the 1990s and from 1998 until 2003 it went through three CEOs.

Then in 2003, Drexler, who was fired from being the CEO of Gap, took over and invested $10 million into the company. He put a spotlight on Jenna Lyons, a designer who had been a part of the company for 13 years. In the first five years of working together they increased revenue 107%.

Leslie Moonves Saved CBS

A photo shows the CBS logo on a building.
Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

CBS has been a broadcasting network since 1927, making it older than network television. And in the 1990s, it was starting to show its age. Budgetary cutbacks exacerbated the issue so that it was ranked last in network television by the mid-90s.

Then CBS hired Leslie Moonves, the Warner Bros. executive who had given the okay for the wildly popular show Friends. With such an impressive achievement under his radar, it’s no surprise that he saved CBS with shows like CSI, Survivor, and The Big Bang Theory. The network is now at the top of the most-watched network list.

The New England Patriots Re-established Themselves As Winners

Two members of the New England patriots.
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots were falling into despair in the late 1980s. The team struggled to get on top and thier stadium filed for bankruptcy. Lucky for them, Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994 for $172 million and turned them into a team worth $2.6 billion.

He gave the team a facelift with a $325 million Gillette Stadium. He also hired coach Bill Belichick and player Tom Brady, who are now big names in the league. Finally, he opened an enormous retail and entertainment space directly next to the stadium, sending profits soaring.

Target Set Itself Apart

The reflection of a building is apparent in a glass Target store sign.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

To understand the success of Target, just compare it to the store Walmart. Target was once your run-of-the-mill value store. However, rather than continuing the race against other value stores, which Walmart totally won, it decided to take a different approach.

In the 2000s, Target upped its image by creating partnerships with brands like Missoni. They recently added CVS to the list. The brand has successfully established itself as a department store, pharmacy, grocery store love child. The varied approach has sent sales skyrocketing without the sacrifice of low prices.

Lacoste Increased Their Cost

A woman walks across a Lacoste store.
Amer Ghazzal/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Amer Ghazzal/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Lacoste emerged on the tennis courts of France in the 1930s as the king of the polo shirts. The brand was characterized by its alligator logo on the chest, an emblem that was in style until the 1990s. By then, the brand had all but given up on reclaiming its upscale name.

Something reminded executives what Lacoste was all about, because the company suddenly yanked its brand out of outlets like Walmart and hired a high-fashion designer to revamp the clothes. They opened boutiques and created a line of handbags, and before long they were back on top.

Best Buy Is Still The Best

A Best Buy sign is photographed from behind a hedge.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In the late ’90s, Best Buy was struggling as its share price dwindled down to a mere $2. However, the increase to $60 a share by 1999 wasn’t exactly a helping hand. Their rapid growth as a company lead to a struggle to maintain standards across stores.

In other words, the sales experience varied across stores. This sent a confusing message to customers that sent some away for good. Management responded with inventory controls and a strategy to improve across the board. The company now dominates the electronic retailers of the United States.

Uber Is Turning Around

The CEO of Uber stands at a podium.
Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Uber has seen some controversy in the past couple of years. In 2017, the company suffered when rumors spread that it continued to do business at JFK airport during a taxi strike. The strike sought to reject the executive order that would bar travelors from flying into the US from certain Muslim countries.

#DeleteUber spread throughout social media, hurting the company and giving way to a rise in its rival, Lyft. However, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made peace amongst the chaos and implemented the UberX service, saving the company from further damage.

Twitter Is Finally Up

A silhouette shows a phone illuminated by the Twitter logo.
Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter has experienced a rollercoaster of disappointments since launching in 2006. The San Francisco based company nearly doubled its stock in 2018. One reason for this success is due to its use of video ads, which have appealed to advertisers and delivered more profits.

The social media platform has also gained rapid popularity as a platform for celebrity figures to reach a broader platform. It still is held back do to concern about safety, but the company’s actions have experts convince that the company will continue to rise to new levels of success.

Chipotle Is Once Again Edible

A man walks past Chipotle.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Who could forget the E. coli scare that sent Chipotle into a two-year crisis? The restaurant rose to prominance in the early 2000s as a fast but healthy option for those on the go. After news broke out that their food might be tainted with harmful bacteria, the company suffered from a loss of hesistant customers.

However, Chipotle recieved a new CEO, Brian Niccol, who brought in a host of new executives to formulate a plan of defense. The former CEO of Taco Bell, Niccol launched a campaign to show off their natural ingredients. The marketing worked, increasing its stock by 40%.

TripAdvisor Took A Leap

Items on a counter are laid out beside a phone that displays the trip advisor logo.
Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

With the near failure of its Insant Booking platform, the future of TripAdvisor was looking grim. The stock price took a nosedive, landing at a %75 decrease in stock price. The company responded by relaxing on its highest expense: marketing.

The lowered expenses drove profit up and appeased investors. The company is also redirecting its attention away from hotels and towards amusements. The stock hasn’t made a full comeback, but they are now safe from going under with a 53% increase in 2018.