22 Largest Bankruptcies in World History

A year and half ago, Lehman Brothers began the largest bankruptcy proceedings in history, joining the many other large and venerable companies that have sunk to the bottom during this economic crisis. Everyone saw that how the collapse of Lehman Brothers pushed capitalism to the brink. The Wall Street titan’s bankruptcy triggered a system-wide crisis of confidence in banks across the globe.

It’s also been said that these last few many years are marked in history as biggest global economy crisis. In fact, eight of the 22 largest bankruptcies have happened during the last three years of recessions. Here in this post, you’ll find Top 22 cases of Largest Bankruptcies in World History with brief details to give you actual idea about these Bankruptcies.

For those who don’t know what Bankruptcy means in terms of economics then “Bankruptcy” is a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organization to pay its creditors. Creditors may file a bankruptcy petition against a debtor (“involuntary bankruptcy”) in an effort to recoup a portion of what they are owed or initiate a restructuring. In the majority of cases, however, bankruptcy is initiated by the debtor (a “voluntary bankruptcy” that is filed by the insolvent individual or organization). [Read More..]

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Largest Bankruptcies in World History

Most of you already know that bankruptcy is a way of dealing with debts where a court makes an order against you if you are unable to pay your debts. Nearly 19% of individual bankrupts are under the age of 30, In the last few years there’s been a noticeable trend in the rise of the number of young people declaring bankruptcy, with the majority of individual bankrupts being under the age of 30. Corporate Bankruptcies is somewhat different than individual Bankruptcy. Let’s have a look at some of the world’s largest corporate bankruptcies starting with “Lehman Brothers”.

01. Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 09/15/2008
  • Assets: $691 billion

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was a global financial-services firm which, until declaring bankruptcy in 2008, participated in business in investment banking, equity and fixed-income sales, research and trading, investment management, private equity, and private banking. It was a primary dealer in the U.S. Treasury securities market.

Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history with Lehman holding over $600 billion in assets. According to Bloomberg, reports filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) on September 16 indicated that J.P. Morgan provided Lehman Brothers with a total of $138 billion dollars in “Federal Reserve-backed advances.” The cash-advances by JPMorgan Chase were repaid by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for $87 billion on September 15 and $51 billion on September 16.

It was well known that Lehman, an Alabama cotton trader turned banking behemoth, was the biggest bankruptcy in US history. But nobody anticipated quite what would follow – a week that has become known on Wall Street as the great panic of 2008.

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02. Washington Mutual Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 09/26/2008
  • Assets: $327.9 billion

On September 26, 2008, Washington Mutual, Inc. and its remaining subsidiary, WMI Investment Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Washington Mutual, Inc. was promptly delisted from trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and commenced trading via Pink Sheets. All assets and most liabilities (including deposits, covered bonds, and other secured debt) of Washington Mutual Bank’s liabilities were assumed by JPMorgan Chase. Unsecured senior debt obligations of the bank of were not assumed by the FDIC, leaving holders of those obligations with little meaningful source of recovery.

On Friday, Sep. 26, 2008, Washington Mutual Bank customers in the branches were given a letter that said the combined JPMorgan Chase and Washington Mutual Banks have 5,400 branches and 14,200 ATM’s in 23 states. Washington Mutual account holders were able to continue banking as normal. Deposits held by Washington Mutual became now liabilities of JPMorgan Chase.

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03. WorldCom Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 07/21/2002
  • Assets: $103.9 billion

WorldCom founded in 1963, it grew to be the second largest long-distance provider in the U.S. It was purchased by WorldCom in 1998 and became MCI WorldCom, and afterwards being shortened to WorldCom in 2000. WorldCom’s financial scandals and bankruptcy led that company to change its name in 2003 to MCI. The MCI name disappeared in January 2006 after the company was bought by Verizon.

WorldCom’s bankruptcy filing in 2002 was the largest such filing in U.S. history. The WorldCom scandal is regarded as one of the worst corporate crimes in history, and several former executives involved in the fraud faced criminal charges for their involvement. Most notably, company founder and former CEO Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and former CFO Scott Sullivan received a five-year jail sentence, which would have been longer had he not pleaded guilty and testified against Ebbers. Under the bankruptcy reorganization agreement, the company paid $750 million to the Securities & Exchange Commission in cash and stock in the new MCI, which was intended to be paid to wronged investors.

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04. General Motors Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 06/01/2009
  • Assets: $91 billion

General Motors Company, also known as GM, is a United States based automaker with headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. By sales, GM ranked as the largest U.S. automaker and the world’s second largest for 2008. GM had the third highest 2008 global revenues among automakers on the Fortune Global 500. GM manufactures cars and trucks in 34 countries, recently employed 244,500 people around the world, and sells and services vehicles in some 140 countries.

GM filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in the Manhattan New York federal bankruptcy court on June 1, 2009 at approximately 8:00 am EST. June 1, 2009 was the deadline to supply an acceptable viability plan to the U.S. Treasury. The petition is the largest bankruptcy filing of a U.S. industrial company. The filing reported US$82.29 billion in assets and US$172.81 billion in debt.

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05. CIT Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 11/01/2009
  • Assets: $71 billion

CIT Group, Inc. is a large American commercial and consumer finance company, founded in 1908. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The company is included in the Fortune 500 and is a leading participant in vendor financing, factoring, equipment and transportation financing, Small Business Administration loans, and asset-based lending. The company does business with more than 80% of the Fortune 1000, and lends to a million small and medium businesses. Like many other financial institutions, the New York-based small business lender spent years on a debt-fueled growth binge. But when Lehman Brothers’ failure drained the Wall Street liquidity pool, CIT was left high and dry.

The firm hastily won approval to become a bank holding company and took TARP funds, but regulators kept CIT Bank on a short leash. Starved of cash, the firm sought a second federal bailout in July but was rejected — forcing it to take a $3 billion loan, later expanded to $4.5 billion, from big bondholders.

CIT later dropped its CEO and tried a big debt swap, but it was no use. The century-old company was sunk the day the easy money dried up.

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06. Enron Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 12/02/2001
  • Assets: $65.5 billion

Enron Corporation (former NYSE ticker symbol ENE) was an American energy company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy in late 2001, Enron employed approximately 22,000 and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, pulp and paper, and communications companies, with claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion in 2000. Fortune named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years. At the end of 2001 it was revealed that its reported financial condition was sustained substantially by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known as the “Enron scandal”.

The Enron scandal, revealed in October 2001, eventually led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which was one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world. In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history at that time, Enron undoubtedly is the biggest audit failure.

Enron was estimated to have about $23 billion in liabilities, both debt outstanding and guaranteed loans. Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase in particular appeared to have significant amounts to lose with Enron’s fall. Additionally, many of Enron’s major assets were pledged to lenders in order to secure loans, throwing into doubt what if anything unsecured creditors and eventually stockholders might receive in bankruptcy proceedings.

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07. Conseco Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 12/17/2002
  • Assets: $61 billion

Conseco, Inc. is a publicly traded holding company headquartered in Carmel, Indiana. Conseco, Inc. is not an insurance company. Conseco, Inc. is engaged in insurance and consumer finance operations through a number of subsidiary companies. As a holding company, Conseco, Inc. is a separate legal entity that is distinct and apart from its subsidiary insurance companies. On December 17, 2002, Conseco, Inc., (Conseco) along with several subsidiaries, including CIHC, Inc. and Conseco Finance Corp., filed for permission to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago. The company collapsed under a huge debt load resulting from a rash of acquisitions in the 1990s, including the $6 billion purchase of Green Tree, the nation’s largest lender to mobile-home buyers.

Under the terms of a tentative bankruptcy agreement, Conseco Finance Corp. will be sold to CFN Investment Holdings LLC. Conseco Finance became insolvent after it failed to make a $4.7 million payment that was due Dec. 4.

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08. Chrysler LLC Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 04/30/2009
  • Assets: $39 billion

Chrysler Group LLC is a U.S. automobile manufacturer headquartered in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Chrysler was first organized as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925. From 1998 to 2007, Chrysler and its subsidiaries were part of the German based DaimlerChrysler AG (now Daimler AG).

On April 30, 2009, President Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection and company announced a plan for a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat. On June 1, Chrysler LLC stated they were selling some assets and operations to the newly formed company Chrysler Group LLC. Fiat will hold a 20% stake in the new company, with an option to increase this to 35%, and eventually to 51% if it meets financial and developmental goals for the company.

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09. Thornburg Mortgage Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 05/01/2009
  • Assets: $36.5 billion

Thornburg Mortgage Inc. was an American publicly traded corporation headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Founded in 1993, the company is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that originates, acquires & manages mortgages, with a specific focus on jumbo and super jumbo adjustable rate mortgages.

During the Financial crisis of 2007–2010 the company experienced financial difficulties related to the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis, and on April 1, 2009 Thornburg Mortgage, Inc. and four of its affiliates (collectively, the “Debtors”) filed petitions in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland seeking relief under chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. After the sale of all remaining assets, it would no longer exist as a going concern.

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10. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 04/06/2001
  • Assets: $36.1 billion

This company, with its headquarters in San Francisco, was founded in 1905 and supplies natural gas and electricity to most areas of Northern California. This company did well initially and had gas power, several hydroelectric and steam plants. Under the electricity market deregulation, the company sold off its natural gas power plants and retained the hydroelectric plants. But with the selling of the gas power plants, the generating capacity went down and it had to buy power from other energy generators. The company had to buy at fluctuating prices and sell at fixed prices, which led to losses and eventually bankruptcy. In 2004, the company emerged from bankruptcy and established itself extremely well and was named one of the most profitable companies for 2005 on the Fortune 500 list.

Bankruptcy cases are always filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court and are governed by federal law. State laws are also applied when it comes to property rights. There have been several other notable bankruptcies in American history, such as Texaco, Inc. and Financial Corp. of America. While some companies survived a bankruptcy and came out strong, others faded into oblivion.

PG&E was one of the most profitable companies on the Fortune 500 list for 2005 with $4.5 billion in profits out of $11 billion in revenue.

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11. Texaco Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 04/12/1987
  • Assets: $34.9 billion

Texaco was an independent company until it merged into Chevron Corporation in 2001. It began as the Texas Fuel Company, founded in 1901 in Beaumont, Texas, by Joseph S. Cullinan, Thomas J. Donoghue, Walter Benona Sharp, and Arnold Schlaet upon discovery of oil at Spindletop. For many years, Texaco was the only company selling gasoline in all 50 states, but this is no longer true. In February 1987 the Texas Court of Appeals upheld the decision. In order to protect Texaco’s assets while continuing its appeals, the company filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Texaco spent most of 1987 in Chapter 11 while continuing its litigation. As a result, it incurred its first operating losses since the Great Depression, finishing the year $4.4 billion in the red. After the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, New York financier Carl Icahn began buying Texaco’s rapidly depreciating stock in an attempt to force it to settle with Pennzoil. A few weeks later Texaco agreed to pay Pennzoil $3 billion rather than appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, allowing it to begin planning for its emergence from Chapter 11.

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12. Financial Corp. of America Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 09/09/1988
  • Assets: $33.8 billion

The Financial Corporation, the former holding company for the American Savings and Loan Association, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code on Sept. 9, 1988. Robert M. Bass Group of Fort Worth injected $350 million and took over the company as part of a Chapter 11 filing. The company eventually liquidated in February 1989.

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13. Refco Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 10/17/2005
  • Assets: $33.3 billion

Refco was a New York-based financial services company, primarily known as a broker of commodities and futures contracts. It was founded in 1969 as “Ray E. Friedman and Co.” Prior to its collapse in October, 2005, the firm had over $4 billion in approximately 200,000 customer accounts, and it was the largest broker on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The firm’s collapse came about ten weeks after it sold shares for the first time to the public. The company was under investigation for hiding a $430 million debt and the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman; Phillip Bennett pleaded guilty of fraud and sentenced to 16 years.

After a securities fraud Refco, Inc. filed for chapter 11 for a number of its businesses, to seek protection from its creditors on October 17, 2005. At the time, it declared assets of around $49 billion, which would have made it the fourth largest bankruptcy filing in American history. This New York-based financial services company sold its regulated futures and commodities business to Man Financial in November.

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14. IndyMac Bancorp, Inc. Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 07/31/2008
  • Assets: $32.7 billion

“IndyMac” was a generally accepted contraction of the formal name Independent National Mortgage Corporation. Before its failure, IndyMac Bank was the largest savings and loan association in the Los Angeles area and the seventh largest mortgage originator in the United States. The failure of IndyMac Bank on July 11, 2008, was the fourth largest bank failure in United States history, and the second largest failure of a regulated thrift. IndyMac Bank’s parent corporation was IndyMac Bancorp (Pink Sheets: IDMCQ) until the FDIC seized IndyMac Bank.

IndyMac Bancorp has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, hit by the subprime-mortgage crisis. Federal regulators seized the company and run a successor company, IndyMac Federal Bank FSB. On March 19, 2009, OneWest Bank Group LLC acquired IndyMac Federal Bank for $16 billion.

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15. Global Crossing, Ltd. Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 01/28/2002
  • Assets: $30.1 billion

Global Crossing Limited is a telecommunications company that provides computer networking services worldwide. It maintains a large backbone and offers transit and peering links, VPN, leased lines, audio and video conferencing, long distance telephone, managed services, dialup, colocation and VoIP, to customers ranging from individuals to large enterprises and to other carriers.

Global Crossing, Ltd. filed for chapter 11 on January 28, 2002. The result of this bankruptcy was said to be the loss of 9000 jobs. Global Crossing is an American telecommunications company based in Bermuda, providing computer networking services throughout the world. In its filing, the company listed its total assets of $22.4 billion and debts amounting to $12.4 billion. It has since recovered from bankruptcy and succeeded in turning around its performance.

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16. Bank of New England Corp. Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 01/07/1991
  • Assets: $29.7 billion

The Bank of New England Corporation was a regional banking institution based in Boston, Massachusetts, which was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1991 as a result of heavy losses in its loan portfolio and was placed into Chapter 7 liquidation. At the time, it was the 33rd largest bank in the United States, and its federal seizure bailout was the second largest on record. At its peak it had been the 18th largest bank and had over 470 branch offices. The liquidation company was named Recoll Management Corporation and its bankruptcy estate has continued to exist to pay out claims against the company.

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17. General Growth Properties, Inc. Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 04/16/2009
  • Assets: $29.5 billion

General Growth Properties is a publicly traded real estate investment trust in the United States. It is based in Chicago, Illinois at 110 North Wacker Drive, a historic building designed by architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. The company owns and manages shopping malls throughout the United States.

GGP failed to reach a deal with its creditors; and on April 16, 2009, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy: the largest real estate bankruptcy since at least 1980, and the largest ever failing by a mall operator.

According to its bankruptcy filing, GGP had about $29.6 billion in assets at the end of 2008, and $27.3 billion in debt. GGP suspended its dividend, halted or slowed nearly all development projects and cut its work force by more than 20%. GGP also sold some of its non-mall assets. Chief Executive Adam Metz said “While we have worked tirelessly in the past several months to address our maturing debts, the collapse of the credit markets has made it impossible for us to refinance maturing debt outside of Chapter 11.” GGP obtained $375 million in debtor-in-possession financing. Mall gift cards remained usable.

On November 19, 2009, it has been reported that GGP may be acquired by its larger rival Simon Property Group in a deal that may be worth up to $30 billion if GGP is acquired in its entirety. Simon has hired property investment firm Cohen & Steers, as well as the Lazard investment bank and the Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Krantz law firm to explore the possibility of acquiring GGP.

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18. Lyondell Chemical Company Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 01/06/2009
  • Assets: $29.3 billion

LyondellBasell Industries (LBI) is a privately-held multinational chemical company based in the Netherlands. It was formed in December 2007 by the acquisition of Lyondell Chemical Company (the third-largest independent, US-based chemicals company, headquartered in Houston, Texas) by Basell Polyolefins for $12.7 billion. The European finance division and American operations of LyondellBasell have filed for bankruptcy effective January 6, 2009 due to facing a huge debt load and slumping demand for its products.

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19. Calpine Corporation Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 12/20/2005
  • Assets: $27.2 billion

Calpine Corporation is a Fortune 500 power company founded in 1984 in San Jose, California as a high technology provider of “clean and green energy”. Calpine’s headquarters were permanently moved from San Jose to Houston, Texas in 2009. The company’s stock was traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CPN until it was delisted on December 5, 2005 due to low share price. On 1/31/08, Calpine emerged from bankruptcy and now trades on the NYSE under the ticker symbol CPN. The company is headquartered in the Calpine Center in Downtown Houston.

On December 12, 2005 Calpine Corp., the U.S. power plant owner saddled with more than $22 billion in debt, filed for bankruptcy protection after soaring natural gas prices left it unable to make loan and bond payments. The filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York followed the ouster of top executives after they lost a fight with bondholders over using asset sale proceeds for plant fuel.

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20. New Century Financial Corporation Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 04/02/2007
  • Assets: $26.1 billion

New Century Financial Corporation was founded in 1995 by a trio of former managers at Option One Mortgage, including former CEO Brad Morrice and is headquartered in Irvine, California. New Century Financial Corporation was a real estate investment trust that originated mortgage loans in the United States through its operating subsidiaries, New Century Mortgage Corporation and Home123 Corporation.

On March 9, 2007, New Century Financial Corporation reported that it had failed to meet certain minimum financial targets required by its warehouse lenders and disclosed that it is the subject of a federal criminal investigation. New Century Financial Corporation further indicated that it does not have the cash to pay creditors who are demanding their money. On April 2, 2007, New Century Financial Corporation and its related entities filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware located in Wilmington, Delaware. New Century Financial Corporation listed liabilities of more than $100 million.

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21. UAL Corporation Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 12/09/2002
  • Assets: $25.1 billion

UAL Corporation is an airline holding company, incorporated in Delaware with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. UAL owns and operates United Air Lines, Inc., one of the world’s largest air carriers, and a founding member of the Star Alliance. After been many ups and downs the company ended 2001 with a record loss of $2.1 billion.

As losses continued in 2002, Glenn Tilton, a former Texaco CEO with experience operating a company in bankruptcy, was brought in by UAL’s Board of Directors to try and prevent bankruptcy, or, if needed, successfully guide the company through a bankruptcy process. Tilton was appointed Chairman, President, and CEO of UAL Corporation and United Air Lines, Inc. in September 2002. Tilton sought wage cuts from employees and applied for a U.S. government loan guarantee to avoid filing for bankruptcy. By early December, the company had reached agreements with most of its unions for wage reductions, but its loan application was rejected Dec. 4. Unable to secure additional capital, UAL Corporation filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 09, 2002. The ESOP was terminated, although by then its shares had become virtually worthless. Blame for the bankruptcy has fallen on the events of September 11, which triggered financial crisis in all the major North American airlines, coupled with the economic slowdown that was underway. UAL quickly received debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to allow it to continue “business as usual” while it reorganized its debt, capital and cost structures.

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22. Delta Air Lines Bankruptcy

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  • Bankruptcy Date: 09/14/2005
  • Assets: $21.8 billion

Delta Air Lines, Inc. is a United States airline based and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the world’s largest airline in terms of passenger traffic and fleet size. Delta operates an extensive domestic and international network, spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Australia.

The Company has been facing financial difficulties for a long time and ever since 2004, tried to stave off bankruptcy by restructuring the company with job cuts and expansion plans. However, in September 2005, it filed for bankruptcy for the first time in its 76-year history. The company cited high jet fuel prices and high labor costs as the two main factors. Delta was in $20.5 billion debt at the time of filing. On April 30, 2007, the airlines emerged from bankruptcy protection as an independent carrier.

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While compiling this list, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other facts about above listed top bankruptcies. Feel free to share it with us.

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  1. I don’t see how this post relates to design and inspiration…

  2. Yep but it’s interesting to know. :)
    I like it.

  3. I agree with Gennice, but this article is still pretty interesting and worth bookmarking:)

  4. @Gennice- I know, this post is directly not related to design and inspiration but it’s a useful article for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

  5. Is this really the largest in the world? has no company outside the US done enough to get into the top 22?

  6. This article has been shared on favSHARE.net. Go and vote it!

  7. …. you left one out, “the United States of America”…. oh yeh, we aren’t bankrupt, we just keep printing money and China hasn’t foreclosed on us…. yet !!

  8. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  9. Completely irrelevant.

  10. Interesting that all the largest bankruptcies come from USA… Giving thoughts, right? :o)

  11. its amazing the amount of banking companies that are involved in Billion Dollar bankruptcies which shows that banking is a volatile business and there are a lot of greedy people wanting to make more and more money. It was a surprise as well seeing GM and Chrysler with a total debt loss of $131 Billion. Looking at it from a normal persons perspective altogether over $1.87 Trillion dollar.

  12. Amazing, the ones that deny us credit if we’ve missed a payment, failed more than all of us!

  13. A year and half ago, Lehman Brothers began the largest bankruptcy proceedings in history, joining the many other large and venerable companies that have sunk to the bottom during this economic crisis. Everyone saw that how the collapse of Lehman Brothers pushed capitalism to the brink.

  14. Somebody necessarily lend a hand to make significantly posts I might state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this actual publish incredible. Magnificent job!

  15. The nerve, and they call the victims of foreclosure fraud “deadbeats”, all 70,000 thousand or more! Whos the bleeping “Deadbeats”!

  16. Some great insight especially coming from a startup vertical. Just goes to show how greedy some people are!

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