What could be called business xenophobia is ramping up as the Dubai Ports controversy takes center stage in Washington and on AM talk shows.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. Industry veterans will recall when Japanese companies bought Columbia Pictures, the Rockefeller Center, and that American institution, the Pebble Beach golf course, in the 1980s. In 1971 the U.S. acquired the London Bridge and shipped it to Arizona. And then there were all those the Dutch Trading Companies.
These are just a couple of prominent examples, and they always didn’t turn out as expected for the acquirers. The Japanese later sold Pebble Beach back at a massive loss. The Americans realized later that the structure they wanted was actually the Tower Bridge.
For years, electronics manufacturers have been modern-day hunters, prowling for buys in faraway lands. They’ve spent billions snatching up everything from OEM plants to Chinese state-owned enterprises to failing businesses from foreign competitors. For better or worse, these businesses haven’t felt the blowback of outraged locals fearful of international owners. As is typical in a largely outsourced industry, the products may be name brands but the companies aren’t. Sometimes, that’s a blessing.