And now, just like the Oscars, we pause to remember some of the Northwest companies that left us (or at least our portfolios) over the past...
And now, just like the Oscars, we pause to remember some of the Northwest companies that left us (or at least our portfolios) over the past decade — either because they were bought, went private, were delisted from their stock exchange or shuffled off their corporate coils entirely. Their names may or may not still be around, but the memories still linger.
Washington Mutual out of business
Once the nation’s largest thrift and sixth-largest deposit-taking institution of any kind, WaMu plunged into the murky waters of option adjustable-rate mortgages, stated-income loans and other dodgy mortgage-lending practices during the housing boom. When the boom went bust, so did a lot of WaMu’s loans — and eventually, so did WaMu: Its collapse in September 2008 ranks as the biggest U.S. bank failure ever.
Safeco snatched up by larger company
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After running into a rough patch early in the decade, the venerable insurer seemed to have turned itself around when Liberty Mutual agreed to buy it in April 2008. Boston-based Liberty still uses the Safeco brand name (and the Mariners’ ballpark still bears it), but the landmark U District tower now sports the University of Washington’s logo.
Eddie Bauer goes private
The outdoor-goods and clothing retailer survived the mid-decade bankruptcy of then-parent company Spiegel, but occupied an unstable niche somewhere between REI and The Gap. That and a heavy debt load forced Eddie Bauer into its own bankruptcy in June 2009; private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital picked it up later that summer for $286 million and continues to operate some 300 stores.
Immunex now part of Amgen
The acknowledged star of the Seattle-area’s biotech scene, Immunex hit it big with its rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel — so big that Amgen bought the company for around $10 billion in 2002. Last year, Amgen sold $3.5 billion worth of Enbrel.
HomeGrocer.com’s short shelf life
It seemed like such a good idea at the time: Have people order their groceries online for home delivery. But the business proved far more expensive and demand far less robust than anyone anticipated. Months after going public, HomeGrocer.com agreed to be bought by its chief rival, Webvan. Less than a year after that deal closed, Webvan itself had gone under.
AT&T Wireless name lives on
Back in 2000, AT&T Wireless was the biggest IPO in U.S. history (a record only broken in 2008, by Visa), but it was just part of a complicated chain of corporate reshufflings for the former McCaw Cellular. Cingular Wireless, a joint venture between SBC and BellSouth, won a bidding war for AT&T Wireless by paying $41 billion. SBC later bought the original AT&T, took its name, acquired BellSouth and its share of Cingular, then re-branded the service AT&T.
Wireless industry gobbled up locals
Ten years ago the Seattle region was crowded with wireless companies, most of them linked somehow to Craig McCaw and all now owned by other companies. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless and renamed it T-Mobile USA; Alltell Wireless acquired Western Wireless; and Sprint Nextel picked up affiliate Nextel Partners.
Puget Energy powers on
The state’s largest utility still provides electricity and gas service to 1.2 million customers in Washington, but now their monthly payments go to a consortium of Australian and Canadian investors, who bought Puget Energy in February 2009 for $7.4 billion.
Video rentals tough market
The march of technology has upended more than one established industry, but few have fallen so far, so fast, as the video-rental business. Oregon-based Hollywood, once the nation’s second-largest chain after Blockbuster Video, sold out to smaller rival Movie Gallery in 2005. But before long, services like Netflix and Redbox began biting off huge chunks of the rental market. Movie Gallery is shutting down, and Blockbuster is struggling to stay afloat.