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Yesterday's Great Companies

Great companies of today may not continue to be the great companies of tomorrow. In fact, history suggests that this is rarely the case. Changes in technology have contributed to the dethroning of the old leaders and the creation of new ones. For instance, wireless communications and the Internet have weakened profits of what were once blue-chip telephone companies. Polaroid is out of business due to changes in photography, and now even Eastman Kodak is facing significant challenges. Other examples include airlines replacing passenger trains and discount stores replacing the likes of Montgomery Ward. Therefore, buying stocks in today’s biggest and richest companies may not lead to superior results. Owning the biggest companies, “putting them away and forgetting about them,” is probably not the most prudent strategy. The bigger the company, the more difficult it is to generate earnings growth. The following list of former market leaders suggest that size and a quality image are no guarantee of future prosperity as these companies either do not exist or are still around, but whose market capitalization (size) has decreased dramatically.

1917: The World War I


Era1945: Past World War II





Republic Steel





Montgomery Ward


International Nickel

Bethlehem Steel


Liggett & Myers Tobacco


Pan American

Pittsburgh Coal


Youngstown Sheet & Tube



Cambria Steel


Warner Brother Pictures


Baldwin Locomotive


Paramount Pictures


American Sugar Refining


Wheeling Steel


Anaconda Copper Mining


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