Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

ITT Thorp Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

ITT Thorp Corporation

List of Deals

International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT) was founded in 1920 by Col. Sosthenes Behn. It was organized by Behn with the intention of creating an international telephone system after American Telephone and Telegraph. Through much of its history, ITT was primarily a telecommunications company.

ITT secured the concession for telephone service in Spain in 1924. The Spanish concession, operated by CTNE, furnished ITT with an entrance into the European market. In 1925 the U.S. government was pressing AT&T to divest its overseas operations, which included Western Electric Company, a European-based manufacturer of telephonic equipment. On September 30, 1925, ITT acquired Western Electric, along with the temporary use of some of AT&T’s patents.

In the years following, ITT became an international company holding manufacturing companies and operating concessions in France, Germany, Britain, and much of Latin America. The company organized operations so that national citizens ran ITT subsidiaries in every country with a facility, while corporate headquarters in New York played a passive management role.

A turning point in the history of ITT came in 1959 when Harold Geneen became head of the company. He first reorganized ITT with a management shake-up and thorough cost-cutting measures. ITT began to make a significant number of acquisitions in 1963, averaging one company a month. His purchases emphasized U.S. operations over European ones, with the goal that 55 percent of ITT revenues be derived from U.S. subsidiaries. Geneen achieved his objective through the frenetic acquisition of 350 companies from 1959 to 1979. These purchases included such large companies as Avis, Continental Baking, Sheraton Corporation of America, Grinnell Corporation, Bobbs-Merrill, Levitt Homes, Eason Oil Company, W. Atlee Burpee, Pennsylvania Glass Sand Company, and many others. These acquisitions as well as cost-cutting measures helped ITT become a billion dollar corporation in 1962. Under Geneen, ITT grew to reach revenues of $22 billion in 1978, and the conglomerate became the fourth-largest employer in America, with 368,000 employees on its payrolls.

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