Major Businesses: United Brands Company Part 2

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


Zemurray purchased land near the Cuyamel River in Honduras to produce bananas and bring them to market. He formed the Cuyamel Fruit Company in 1910 and began negotiating with the Honduran government for favorable terms--no increases in taxes, permission to build a railroad, and no customs duty on construction materials he imported. But Honduras was in debt, and to ease its financial problems President Davila signed a contract with New York banks that permitted them to collect customs duties.

Faced with the fact that he could not get the customs concessions he wanted, Zemurray financed a revolution. He bought a yacht and equipped it with a case of rifles, 3,000 rounds of ammunition, and a machine gun. In short order, Gen. Manuel Bonilla, who had been living in exile in the U.S., was the new Honduran president, U.S. mercenaries Lee Christmas and Guy "Machine Gun" Molony became commander in chief and a general in the Honduran army, and Cuyamel Fruit Company got the economic concessions it wanted.

Between 1900 and 1910, United Fruit had 77% of the banana market in North America and Europe. Between 1910 and 1930 it had 60%. One of its competitors was Cuyamel, which had extensive banana plantations in Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. They competed for land in the Montagua Valley region in the disputed border area between Guatemala (where United Fruit had its operations) and Honduras (where Cuyamel operated). The two companies urged their host governments to fight over the territory, which resulted in several border clashes.

At the end of 1929 United Fruit bought Cuyamel, making Zemurray United Fruit's largest stockholder. He took over control of the operations of the company in 1932, when the price of the company's stock fell.

In 1970 the company was merged into AMK Corporation, and the name of the new company became United Brands. AMK Corporation once made caps for milk bottles. It was taken over by Eli Black, who used it to build a conglomerate. First he gained control of John Morrell & Company, the meat producer, and then in 1968 he bought almost 10% of United Fruit's stock in the third-largest transaction in New York Stock Exchange history.

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