The Biggest Business Transactions in History

These days, we’re used to seeing headlines about big business deals involving Facebook, Google, or another tech company. But while those deals are impressive, it turns out that they don’t even crack the top ten of biggest business transactions of all time. We crunched the numbers to find out which deal would take the title, and in fact, the biggest business deal in history may surprise you.

biggest business deals

The era of big business deals began in 1708, when the British East India Company bought their rival, the English Company Trading to the East Indies. This transaction was sealed with a loan to the government for exclusive rights to British trade in India for 3.2 million pounds, the equivalent of $722 million in today’s currency.

In following years, major business transactions reflected the dawning Industrial Age. For example, in 1901, U.S. Steel was founded by the merger of the Carnegie Steel Company, the Federal Steel Company, and the National Steel Company, which J.P. Morgan bought for $492 million (or $13.95 billion today). Eight years later, General Motors purchased Cadillac for $4.75 million, or $1.21 billion in today’s currency.

In 1998, one of the most famous transactions took place when Exxon purchased Mobil for $80.3 billion, or $116.02 billion today. Two years later, America Online purchased Time Warner for more than twice that amount- $186.2 billion, or $257.84 billion in 2014.

Impressive as these numbers are, they’re still second to Vodafone’s 1999 purchase of Mannesmann. This landmark deal was made for $185.1 billion, or a stunning $263.2 billion today, and the transaction created the largest mobile phone operator at the time, with over 42 million customers across Europe in 2000.

Recently, tech deals have grabbed people’s attention. In 2014, Facebook acquired both Oculus Rift and WhatsApp for $2 billion and $19 billion, respectively. Google, similarly, bought Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014 and Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2011 (or $13 billion in 2014). While a tech deal has yet to top the Vodafone-Mannesmann deal, there’s reason to believe that a tech deal will soon take the top spot.

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