6 Mergers That Changed The World

Mergers are an important part of the modern business world. They can also be a cautionary tale of the challenges of mixing corporate cultures, environments, and products. It's safe to say that mergers can change the world in good ways – and bad.

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AOL and Time Warner

Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of America Online, left, and Gerald Levin, Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, right on merger day, January 10, 2000. Chris Hondros/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Of course, AOL was involved in the biggest merger in corporate history when they merged with media giant, Time Warner, in 2000. The merger was intended to mix the world of print publishing with the vastly approaching digital age.

It ultimately didn't work out. Years later, pundits continue to argue why, but ultimately AOL spun back out as an independent company in 2009. 

Since then, Time Warner has continued to divest even further, with the spin out of most of their publishing brands as newly independent Time Inc. in 2014.

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MCI and Worldcom

Former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan leaves federal court after his fraud conviction sentencing on August 11. 2005. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News

During a time where mergers and takeovers were at some of their highest levels in the 1980s and 1990s, telecommunications giants MCI and Worldcom came together in what was then the biggest merger in corporate history in 1994.

The company would become more famous post merger for its use of accounting principles to hide revenue losses on their balance sheet. This scandal helped to create the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which made senior-level executives at companies personally responsible for the contents of their earnings reports.

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Facebook and Instagram

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Still Facebook's biggest acquisition to date, its billion dollar purchase of Instagram heralded a new era in social networking, and spawned a deeper rift between Facebook and Twitter in 2012.  

Rumor has it that Twitter's attempt to purchase Instagram was a largely done deal – for around half as much money – until Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom shopped the company to Facebook.

There are no hard feelings in hashtags. Except when there are.

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Boeing and McDonnell Douglas

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In 1996, Boeing announced a deal to purchase rival airplane manufacturer McDonnell Douglas for $13.3 billion, creating the world's largest aviation company. 

The merger would ultimately lead to thousands of layoffs, but Boeing still remains the largest employer (with more than 70,000 people) in the Seattle area.

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Exxon and Mobil

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After a long history operating independently, and as par of trusts, Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999 to form what was then the most valuable company in the world. 

Critics of the consolidation claimed the merger would bring higher gas prices to consumers. 

The company would lose the most valuable company in the world distinction to Apple and Microsoft in 2014. 

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People Express and Frontier, and then Continental

A People Express 737 in 1982. Flickr user: Aero Icarus. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Once upon a time, the U.S. Government regulated which airlines got which air travel routes. This changed in the late 1970s. 

By offering low cost fares to popular destinations, People Express became one of the first low-cost airlines, and grew to be a very successful business.

In 1986 they purchased the original Frontier Airlines, which proved to be a bad move. The companies had completely different cultures, equipment, and philosophies, and the cost involved in the purchase helped to doom the airline.

The holding company of Continental Airlines bought People Express just over a year later, creating the nucleus of a global giant (which itself would be merged into United Airlines in 2010).