Can you imagine a
world without Radio Shack, Sears and Blockbuster? If you’re
somebody who lacks an imagination, you are probably panicking right
now. Settle down and take a few deep breaths. See, these well-known
brands – which were dominant in their respective industries –
don’t exist anymore, so there’s no need to think up some dark,
terrible world without radios, tall Chicago skyscrapers and late
rental fees since that’s the reality. But did you know that there
are plenty of hugely successful companies that almost suffered a
similar fate? Thanks to some luck and the right strategy, they
managed to avoid going the way of the dodo bird. Here’s a look at 8
of them.

1. Etch a Sketch

If you were ever a
kid (and you’d be defying nature if you weren’t), there’s a
pretty good chance that you owned an Etch a Sketch and proved to your
parents that your artistic talent knew no boundaries. You’d sketch
a flower and something that sort of looked like a butterfly, admire
your work, and shake that sucker vigorously once it was time to move
on drawing a house with a happy sun overhead. However, in the 1990s
the company that manufactured this iconic toy began to struggle
financially, but thanks to its placement in the movie Toy Story
in 1995, it saw a temporary sales boost. The Etch a Sketch returned
in Toy Story 2 four years later – this time for 45 seconds
compared to 15 in the original – and that was enough to put it over
the top for good. Today the toy is thriving.

2. Lego

Much like the
aforementioned Etch a Sketch, Lego is something that has defined
almost everybody’s childhood unless you grew up in one of those
households that forbid joy and happiness. But in the late 90s, the
company was in serious trouble. A new CEO was hired and he made the
brilliant decision to partner up with George Lucas and release Star
Wars and Indiana Jones Lego sets. Lego has gone on to do this with
other movies as well (and even made several movies based on Lego
itself!) and the company is definitely in good shape now.

3. BMW

This one was a while
back, so it’s probably not a surprise if you were unaware of how
close this car manufacturer was to collapsing. Back in the 1940s, BMW
was actually known for producing affordable automobiles. But in 1948
they made the strategic decision to focus on the luxury cars instead,
and by this nearly doomed them as the price was 4 times the salary of
the typical German of that time. Herbert Quandt swooped in and saved
the company from bankruptcy.

4. Six Flags

Six Flags is where
you take the kids when the thought of confronting the huge rodent
that wanders around Disneyland is more than you can handle. But in
2009, the amusement park corporation filed for bankruptcy after
finding itself $2.4 billion in debt. After some major restructuring,
they got back on their feet and a decade later they’re bringing in
around 30 million visitors a year.

5. American

Back in 2011, during
a major economic downturn in the airline industry, American Airlines
found itself worth only $90 million. That might sound like tons of
money, but consider this: it’s actually less than what it would
cost to buy a new passenger jet. But thanks to investors eager to buy
American Airline stock on the cheap (it was as low as 20 cents per
share), the company found itself in proper footing and even bought
out US Airways a mere two years after filing for bankruptcy
protection, making it the largest airline in the world.

6. FedEx

Shipping things via
aircraft is something we all take for granted today, but before FedEx
made this part of its business strategy, the other couriers were
using trucks and ponies or whatever. However, a surge in oil prices
in the mid-70s was costing the company more than it could afford and
suddenly it was down to its last $5000. So what did founder Frederick
Smith do? He made his way to Las Vegas and bet it all in games of
Blackjack. Fortunately, luck was on his side and he left with
$32,000, which was just enough to be able to pay for more jet fuel,
keeping the company afloat and buying it some time that allowed it to
secure a bank loan and eventually become the $25 billion the behemoth
that it is today.

7. Walt Disney

Disney actually
nearly went under on two occasions: back in 1920 when the company’s
financial banker himself went bankrupt and again in 1937 when the
high costs associated with making Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
left Walt Disney himself having to invest $1.5 million of his
personal money along with taking out a bank loan in order to get it
completed. As it turned out, the movie was a huge blockbuster, making
$8 million (a pretty damn good amount for the time), keeping the
company afloat and eventually leading to that Baby Yoda that we all
hold dear.

8. Apple

When your goal is to be as pretentious as hell, owning the latest iPhone and Macbook Pro should do the trick. But in 1997 Apple was far from the company that is best known for selling overpriced gadgets to hipsters. In fact, if not for a $150 million assist from rival Bill Gates himself, Apple would probably be mentioned in the same breath as the Commodore. But don’t worry, Microsoft also made off pretty handsomely from this investment.

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