Major Businesses: United Brands Company Part 1

About the major world business United Brands Company, history, headquarters, size, and leader.



Lay of the Land: United Brands' headquarters are located in New York City. Its United Fruit Company division owns about 194,000 acres, most of which is in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama.

Size: United Brands is the largest banana producer in the world. Its subsidiary John Morrell & Company is one of the largest meat producers. United Brands is the 99th-largest industrial corporation in the U.S.

Population: 50,000 employees.

Who Rules: Chairman Max M. Fisher and Vice-Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Seymour Milstein make United Brands' day-to-day policy decisions. The company's officers are elected by a 13-member board of directors. The directors are elected by 28,000 stockholders owning 10.8 million shares.

Who REALLY Rules: Control of United Brands rests with its largest stockholders: Seymour and Paul Milstein together own 10% of the stock, Max Fisher owns 4%, and the American Financial Corporation owns 25%. The Lindner family owns 40% of American Financial, and Carl H. Lindner sits on United Brands' board of directors.

The U.S. Civil War marked the end of slavery in the U.S., and one of the first groups to suffer the economic consequences of the new economic order were the New England ship captains who used to make money transporting slaves. They soon found a new commodity that would make them rich--bananas.

In 1870 Capt. Lorenzo Dow Baker of Wellfleet, Mass., sold his firs 160 bunches of Jamaican bananas in Jersey City, N.J. He soon began transporting bananas to Boston, where they were sold for him by Andrew Preston. Preston, Baker, and eight others then formed the Boston Fruit Company to sell bananas from Cuba, Jamaica, and Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic).

Meanwhile, a railroad builder named Minor Keith had planted bananas on land he owned to finance the building of a railroad in Costa Rica. He formed three companies to ship bananas from Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua and sell them in New Orleans, La.

In 1899 Baker, Keith, and Preston joined together to form the United Fruit Company.

Sam "the Banana Man" Zemurray had a contract with United Fruit to buy ripe bananas in New Orleans which he then sold before they rotted. Zemurray and another contractor, who bought United Fruit's ripe bananas in Mobile, joined together to buy bananas from independent producers in Honduras and ship them to New Orleans.

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