Some of these companies may be known for their origin in America, but that’s about as American as they get nowadays. Whether it be manufacturing, shifting ownership, or headquarters locations, these companies can no longer truly be considered “American”.
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s has been constantly mentioned in movies and television series as an American brand of ice cream. It was founded by best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, opening up their own ice cream parlor in 1978. Obviously their success led to forming a massive company. However, while its original headquarters was in South Burlington, Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s is now an English company. It was purchased by the London-based conglomerate Unilever in 2000 for $326 million. They actually outbid three different companies.
Burger King really seems like one of the quintessential American, fast food joints. It was founded in 1954 by James McLamore and David Egerton when they opened a store called “Insta Burger King”. The company was then sold for the first time ten years later. Its been owned by several companies since then, with its original headquarters moving from Miami, Florida. But, most recently, it was purchased by Restaurant Brands International. For those of you unaware, that’s a Canadian company.
Sunglass Hut seems like a top tier place for people to get the eyewear they need. And it’s an international brand as well, having stores in India, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, among other countries, with around 2,000 stores existing globally. The original stores was opened by optometrist Sanford Ziff in Miami, Florida. But it was sold five years after opening in 1986 upon opening its 100th store. They were later sold again in 2001 for $653 million to the Luxotica Group. They’re an Italian company that actually has a global monopoly on glasses.
Trader Joe’s is a pretty popular convenience store in the United States. It was founded in 1967 by Joe Coulombe. He started to stock unusual and hard to come by foods to entice customers into visiting his store instead of 7-Eleven. That original store in Monrovia, California is still open today, but the company was sold in 1979. The chain’s current owner is Aldi Nord, a German company owned by Theo Albrecht.
Speaking of 7-Eleven, It was founded by Jefferson Green under the name Southland Ice in 1927. He started expanding his range of goods and changed the store’s name, causing a lot more people to stop buy to purchase goods. While it’s a massive and popular brand in America today, it’s not American-owned anymore. Originally having its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven was bought by Ito-Yokado, a Japanese company after 1987. It’s currently under Ito-Yokado’s parent company, Seven & i Holdings.
The Dirt Devil brand of vacuum cleaners has been doing its job since 1905 in Cleveland, Ohio, when it was created by Philip Geier. More than 25 million units have been sold since. However, the Chinese company Techtronic Industries has since purchased the vacuum brand. Its headquarters is still in Charlotte, North Carolina, but its owners are across the Pacific.
The Ironman competition started out as a part of the Hawaii Triathlon Corporation before it was purchased by Dr. James P. Gills in 1990. The deal at the time was worth $3 million, but Ironman’s worth has significantly increased since then. It was sold in 2008 again to Prividence Equity Securities for $85 million. And now, it’s under the ownership of the Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group. They bought it for $650 million in 2015.
The first issue of Forbes came out in September of 1917. Ever since, the magazine’s become a trusted publication for ranking companies and celebrities, as well as general popularity. While American-founded, it isn’t American-owned anymore. It was purchased by the Hong King-based Integrated Whale Media Investments in 2014 for $400 million.
General Electric was a rather small brand when it was first founded in 1892. Nowadays GE is a titan of the electronics industry. Many products from General Electric have the “Made in America” stamp on them, but these appliances aren’t exactly American-owned. Chinese company Haier purchased the appliances devision in 2016 for $5.4 billion. That was a record-breaking sum at the time.
Back in 1952, Holiday Inn was once just a single motel between Memphis and Nashville. It was founded by Kemmons Wilson after a less than stellar road trip. By 1953, Wilson had partnered with Wallace E. Johnson to build more locations. In the 80s, it was purchased by the English company Intercontinental Hotels Group. Since then, there are still new Holiday Inn locations popping up.
Purina was originally headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, but the company’s actually been sold to a couple different countries. It was bought in 2001 for $10.3 billion by a Swiss company, Nestle. Then, sometime after Nestle decided to merge its other pet food brand with Purina, it ended up being headquartered in Japan by Bridgestone.
Nestle didn’t just want to get in on the pet food market, but baby food as well. They bought Gerber Products Company for $5.5 billion in 2007. Gerber had already been making baby food since 1927, after the founder of the company, Daniel Frank Gerber, saw his wife make baby food for their daughter.
IBM (PC Division)
IBM has been helping the US stay ahead in the technology game since 1911. However, its focus on tech hasn’t always had to do with computers. And now that fact is even more true, as they sold their PC division to the Chinese company Lenovo in 2004 for $1.75 billion. Both the buyers and the sellers were really excited by this deal, and said as much in interviews.
Hoover’s another electronics brand well-loved and well-respected in the United States. William Henry Hoover’s company has become a particularly iconic brand over the decades. And like Dirt Devil, it was also purchased by Techtronic Industries. They sold it for $107 million. Hoover’s headquarters are still in North Carolina, but Techtronic runs the show from Hong Kong.
Frigidaire was originally founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1918, under the name Guardian Frigerator Company. It was officially founded by Nathaniel B. Wales and Alfred Mellowes, although they didn’t quite have the money to get it off the ground. Fortunately William C. Durant, the founder of General Motors, stepped in. The company changed hands once in 1979 to the White Sewing Machine Company, but was later bought again by Sweden’s Electrolux in 1986. They’ve been an Electrolux subsidiary ever since.
Alka-Seltzer is one of the longest-standing branded medicines there is. An antacid and pain relief drink released under the Dr. Miles Medicine Company back in 1931, it’s still widely successful today as a product. It stayed in America for a while, but was sold to the German company Bayer in 1978.
How often do you hear people say they’re listening to music on Spotify? It’s a commonly used app that allows you to listen to all kinds of music. Its original headquarters were in New York, New York, but it’s been traveling a lot since then. In 2017, Tencent Holdings Ltd and Spotify bought a 10% stake in each others company. That helped it crack into the Chinese market.
Elon Musk is the majority shareholder of Tesla, but while he holds the title of founder, he wasn’t the original creator of the company that originally headquartered it in Palo Alto, California. Of course, there are other shareholders. Turns out Tencent Holdings Ltd isn’t just into music, but a variety of different types of electronics.
Snapchat was originally headquartered in Los Angeles, California, created by Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy in 2011. It became a wildly successful social media app, currently worth $20 billion. But in 2017, Tencent extended its reach to Snapchat as well, putting $2 billion of stock into the company for a 10% stake.
Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group is one of the “Big Three” record companies, with a reputation that spans nearly a century. While originally American, it hasn’t been owned by Americans for a number of years. French company Vivendi owned a majority stake in the company for over a decade. But in 2020, the “unexpected Tencent also ended up getting a rather big piece of the pie.
Sotheby’s was technically founded in London in 1744, but was then moved to New York City before opening locations around the world. The Taikang Life Insurance Company ended up becoming a majority shareholder in 2016, holding that position until 2019 when it was bought by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi.
Conrad “Nicky” Hilton founded Hilton Hotels and Resorts in 1919. It has since expanded from a handful of locations to 586 hotels in 85 countries by 2018. In 2016, the Chinese company HNA Group paid $6.5 billion for a 25% stake in the chain, becoming the majority shareholder. Hilton, itself was worth $26 billion at the time.
Brookstone was originally a mail-order company that sold special or hard to find tools in the 60s. Eventually it started selling items like remote control toys, alarm clocks, and other novel electronics. They had 34 locations in the US by 2018. However, the company fell on hard times in 2014 when it had to file for bankruptcy. the Chinese companies Sailing Capital and Sanpower then came to the rescue, purchasing the company and pulling it out of bankruptcy.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s hard to believe that an American basketball franchise isn’t actually owned by an American businessman. The Cavaliers, which have been a team since 1970, signed a deal with Jianhua Huang, a Chinese businessman, to own a %15 stake in the Cavaliers. As it turns out Lebron James was very popular in China, and Huang had already made similar deals with other sports teams in the US, like the Yankees.
Riot Games Inc
Riot Games are known as the creators of the MMO, League of Legends. The game debuted in 2009 and became an international phenomena. It may not be surprising that Tencent Holdings decided to buy a larger stake in the company in 2015. They already owned 93% of the company, but decided to just get that last seven percent to get complete creative control.