Popular U.S. Companies You Thought Were Owned By Americans, But Aren’t

Some companies are as American as it gets. Many companies were established and became the backbone of America. As far as the owners are concerned, their business will stay in America forever. However, not all companies would rather fail then pass off ownership to foreigners. Founders are willing to hand over the company keys for a check that has more than a few zeros at the end of it. These are the companies you always thought were American, but aren’t anymore. Even the most seemingly American things like burgers, beer, and car tires aren’t American owned.

Trader Joe’s is German-Owned


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Trader Joe’s seems to be as American as it gets. Yes, it has some island flair to it, but that’s just the personality of the store. People adore Trader Joes whether it’s for the food, atmosphere, green initiative, or the two-buck Chuck wine.

Most people also assume that it’s owned by some American family that has an obsession with tikis and Hawaiian shirts. Although Trader Joes was founded by Joe Columbus in Pasadena, California in 1968, it has been German-owned for years. It was bought by Aldi’s Theo Albrecht in 1979 and is now owned by his heirs.

Number six is a company named after a Patriot of the American Revolution isn’t American-owned.

Holiday Inn is Owned by a UK Company


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The Holiday Inn is one of the United States’ largest hotel chains that dates back decades. It was founded in 1952 by Kemmons Wilson from Memphis, Tennessee who was inspired by the inconsistent quality of roadside motels. Starting off as a motel chain, the name Holiday Inn was coined by architect Eddie Bluestein as a joke from the Christmas musical “Holiday Inn,” but the name stuck.

The chain remained American-owned until 1988 when it was bought by a British company named Bass PLC, who also own Bass Brewing. It’s now known as the InterContinental Hotels Group, based in Denham, Buckingshire and there are more than 1,145 working hotels.

Burger King is British?!


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Everything associated with fast food is just assumed to be American. Tasty, low cost, fast- the American way. Burger King was no different. It was founded as Insta-Burger King in Jacksonville, Florida. After suffering from financial difficulties, it was bought by David Edgerton and James McLamore and renamed Burger King.

Eventually, it was sold to Pillsbury Company in 1967 who kept it American up until 1989 when Pillsbury was acquired by the British firm Grand Metropolitan, which is now Diageo. The chain continued to transfer hands and is now owned by Canada’s Restaraunt Brands International.

Ben & Jerry’s Is Neither Owned by Ben or Jerry


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Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc. or more commonly Ben & Jerry’s, is an American ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet company. It was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont. It didn’t take long for Ben & Jerry’s to dominate the ice cream market with their creative marketing tactics, delicious ice cream, and eco-friendly values.

While Ben & Jerry’s may be the perfect example of the American dream, in 2000, it was sold to Unilever, a British-Dutch company for $326 million. Although the headquarters is located in South Burlington, Vermont, both Ben and Jerry do not hold any board or management positions and are not involved in the day-to-day of the business.

The Hoover Company Sold for $108 Million


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The Hoover company is a vacuum cleaner company that began as an American floor care manufacturer in North Canton, Ohio. As the company grew, it eventually dominated the electric vacuum cleaner industry as Hoover became synonymous with the vacuum.

Although Hoover was established in the UK, it was still an American-based company and an American product. Hoover was also a part of The Whirlpool Corporation which was then sold to the Hong-Kong investment company Techtronic Industries in 2007 for $108 million.

Canada Bought John Hancock Financial


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Founded on April 21, 1862, John Hancock Financial is an insurance company that was named after the American Patriot John Hancock. The company remained entirely American until 2004 when it was bought by the Canadian insurance company Manulife Financial Corp for $10.4 billion.

However, the headquarters of the insurance company remains in Boston, Massachusetts. They also kept the name John Hancock in an attempt to keep many of their previous American clients. For the most part, the company remained relatively unchanged during the merger.

If you thought that was deceiving, #10 has “American” in the name, but is owned overseas.

Motorolla Was Divided and Sold to China


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Founded in 1928, Motorola (formerly Galvin Manufacturing Corporation) was an American multinational telecommunications company based in Schaumburg, Illinois. Two brothers, Pail V and Joseph E. Galvin bought the bankrupt company, Steward Battery Company’s battery-eliminator plans, and equipment at an auction and got to work.

Not long after, they came out with the first car radio that could be installed into most cars. The company was renamed Motorola in 1930 and became the American tech titan that we know today. Then, in 2011, the ownership was split in two, and the Mobility part was sold to China’s Lenovo three years later for $2.9 billion.

Firestone Sold to Japan in 1988


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Firestone Tire and Rubber company was founded by Harvey Firestone in 1900 in Akron, Ohio. It supplied tires for the wagons and buggies of the era and was one of the first companies to mass produce tires.

Over time, Henry Firestone became friends with Henry Ford and was named the main equipment supplier of Ford Motor Company. Firestone remained at the top of the list in the industry and also became involved in the replacement part market. Firestone remained an American company until it was sold to the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation in 1988.

Anheuser-Busch is German-Owned


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In 1852, German-American brewer and saloon owner George Schnieder opened up the Baravian Brewery in St. Louis. Missouri. Over time, the brewery grew yet suffered financially. Luckily, it was then bought and saved by William D’Oench and Everhard Anheuser. Eventually, D’Oench sold his half of the company, and Anheuser, who is German, took over entirely.

Over the decades, Anheuser grew the company into beer titan that we know today. It was the biggest brewery and manufacturer of beer in the United States. It remained this way until 2008 when it merged with the Belgian brewing company InBev for a deal of $52 billion.

American Apparel Went Bankrupt


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American Apparel was founded by Dov Charney in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. Although it started out small, it has grown to become one of the largest clothing manufacturers and marketers in North America. In 2015, American Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and got rid of the founder and CEO Dov Charney.

In January 2017, Gildan Activewear purchased American Apparel’s intellectual property and assets for $88 million in a bankruptcy auction. The company was purchased by Gildan, a Canadian manufacturing firm which outsources much of the company’s brand to Honduras. Not so American after all.

Gerber Used to be American, but is Now Swiss-Owned


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Headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, Gerber was founded in 1921 in Fremont, Michigan by Daniel Frank Gerber. Gerber was the owner of the Fremont Canning Company and started making his daughter’s baby food at the recommendation of her doctor.

He saw an opportunity and began making baby food that he was shipping worldwide. In 1994, Geber merged with Sandoz Laboratories which was then sold to the Swiss company Nestle in 2007 for $5.5 billion. Today, Gerber controls 61 percent of the baby food market in the United States.

Forbes Magazine’s HQ is in New Jersey, But…


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When people think about Forbes, they think about American business. After all, it is an American business magazine that’s headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. Forbes was founded on September 15, 1917, by financial columnist B.C. Forbes and his partner, William Drey who was the general manager of the Magazine of Wall Street.

Originally named Forbes: Devoted to Doers and Doings, it became the go-to magazine for American businesspeople and financial workers. However, in 2014, the publication was sold to Hong kong’s Integrated Whale Media Investments for an undisclosed amount.

Popsicle is Now British-Dutch


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In 1905 in Oakland, California, 11-year-old Francis William Epperson was mixing powdered drink flavoring with water when he left them outside overnight. The liquid froze, and the popsicle was born. By 1924, Francis Epperson had a real business going and had a patent on the frozen product.

However, in 1989, the British-Dutch company Unilever bought the company. After the purchase, Popsicle began to come out with “natural flavors and colors” and “sugar-free” flavors to reach a wider audience.

Purina is Now Swiss-Owned


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In 1894, William H. Danforth, Geroge Robinson, and William Andrews created Ralston Purina to feed farm animals. The company focused on farm animals until it was acquired by Nestle in 2001 for $10.3 billion and merged it with Nestle’s pet food business, Friskies PetCare company.

Now Nestle Purina PetCare, the company’s headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri. However, Nestle is a Swiss transnational company. The company grew exponentially after the merger, and as of 2012, is the second-largest pet food company in the world and the largest in the United States.

Citgo Became Venezuelan-owned, Then Given to Russia


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Citgo Petroleum Corporation transports fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and industrial products. The company was started back in the early 1900s by Ohio oil entrepreneur Henry Latham Doherty. He then went on to create Cities Service Company in 1910 which eventually grew into Citgo.

Citgo now has its American headquarters in Houston, Texas although it was sold to the Venezuelan state oil and gas corporation. More recently, Venezuela offered up Citgo as collateral for Russia because of its ever-growing debt to the country.

Frigidaire Exchanged Hands Many Times


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Frigidaire was founded as the Guardian Refrigerator Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The company developed the first self-contained refrigerator and in 1918, William C. Durant, the founder of General Motors invested in the company and changed the name to Frigidaire.

Soon after, Frigidaire was the leading company in refrigeration and most people referred to any refrigerator as a Frigidaire. From 1919 to 1979, the company was owned by General Motors until it was sold to White Sewing Machine Company in 1979 and then bought by the Swedish company Electrolux in 1986.

AMC Theaters is Chinese


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AMC Theaters was founded by Maurice, Edward, and Barney Dubinsky. Over time, it grew to become one of the largest movie theatre chains in the United States beating Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Theaters.

The company’s headquarters are located in Leawood, Kansas although it was bought by the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda. The founder of Dalian Wanda, Wang Jianlinbought bought AMC theatres for $2.6 billion in 2014. The company now owns 5,048 cinema screens and 347 movie theatres in the United States and Canada.

Sunglass Hut Sold For $653 Million in 2001


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Sunglass Hut was founded in Miami, Florida in 1971 by optometrist Sanford L. Ziff. Although it started off as a kiosk, it was successful enough for more stores to pop up around Miami.

By 1986, there were over 100 Sunglass Huts outlets and the company was making sales of $24 million a year. Today, it is one of America’s largest sunglass companies but was bought be the Italian and Milan-headquartered Luxottica Group for $653 million in 2001.

GE Appliances Was Purchased by a Chinese Company


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GE Appliances is one of America’s biggest appliance companies. Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, it was originally part of General Electric but created as a stand-alone company. In 2004, it merged to become part of GE Consumer & Industrial products which was founded in 1905.

While the company was built and made in America, it was bought up by the Chinese company Haier for $5.4 billion in 2016. Regardless that the company is now Chinese, it is still one of largest appliance brands in the United States.

Legendary Entertainment Group Sold For $3.5 Billion


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Legendary Entertainment Group is an American based media company that is located in Burbank, California. It was established by Thomas Tull in 2000. By 2005, Tull agreed to co-produce and co-finance movies with other American media companies such as Warner Bros. In which case Universal Pictures would then distribute those films.

Then, in 2016, the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group bought the media company for a cool $3.5 billion. Since then, the CEO position has been handed off to numerous different businesspeople and we’ll have to see what comes of the company.

Smithfield Foods Was A Classic


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The giant meat-processing company Smithfield Foods was founded in 1936 in Smithfield, Virginia by Joseph W. Luter Sr. and his son, Joseph Jr. Together they grew the company, and by 2006, Smithfield raised 15 million pigs each year, producing over six billion pounds of pork.

They acquired more companies and grew even bigger, to become the top pig-slaughter operation in the US. In 2013, Shuanghui Group, now known as WH Group purchased the American company for a whopping $4.72 billion, making it the largest Chinese acquisition of an American company in history. The Chinese company now owns 146,000 acres of American land.

7-Eleven Will Always Be Around, No Matter Who Owns It


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When you travel abroad and see a 7-Eleven you think to yourself, it’s an American store overseas. But really, it’s not. Not anymore, at least. 7-Eleven convenient stores were founded in Dallas, Texas in 1927. Together there are an incredible 66,579 stores in 17 different countries.

Today the international chain is owned by a Japanese company, Toyko-based Seven & I Holdings. They bought the brand in 1991 for a whopping $1 billion. Luckily, the Slurpees still taste the same.

Americans Love Their Dirt Devil


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The Dirt Devil company was founded in 1905 in Cleveland Ohio by Philip Geier as Royal Manufacturing. In 1955, they released their first household vacuum with a patented Cyclone system. Over 25 million have been sold since.

Then, in 1980, they released their “Dirt Devil” line with plastic cases as the “Roya” name in the brand became smaller and smaller on the logo until it vanished entirely. Then, in 2002, its parent company Royal Appliances Manufacturing Co. was bought by Hong Kong’s Techtronic Industries for $10.5 million.

The Ironman Triathalon Brand Sounds Like It Should Be American


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The Wanda Group is a powerful brand that owns a lot of properties. Headquartered in Beijing, China, their industries include but aren’t limited to health care, financial services, construction, sports, retail, and more. They’ve become increasingly interested in purchasing American companies, including AMC theatres, which doubled profits after their acquisition.

In 2015, the Wanda Group purchased the iconic Ironman triathlon and brand from America’s Providence Equity Partners LLC. It cost them $900 million.

The Waldorf Astoria is A Big Part Of New York History



The Waldorf Astoria New York is a luxury hotel located in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel has been housed in two historic landmarks, hence the name. The present building is at 301 Park Ave. between 49th and 50th Streets. The first hotel was opened on March 13, 1983, and was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in a German Renaissance style.

The hotel has grown over the years, moving locations, and growing in esteem. While this hotel may seem strictly American, it was acquired by the Chinese insurance giant Angbang Insurance Group in 2014 for $1.95 billion. The group plans on converting some of the rooms into luxury condos.

Good Humor Was Summer In The United States At Its Best


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What’s more American than ice cream trucks? Our childhood memories flashback to the infamous ice cream truck song as it approaches the neighborhood, sending all of the kids into a frenzy. Good Humor ice cream was a favorite served on these trucks.

The brand was founded in 1923 in the state of Ohio, beginning with a simple chocolate cream bar and grew to operate 2,000 ice cream trucks. In 1961 the company was sold to Lipton brand, which is based in the United Kingdom. We hope they do this cornerstone of American childhood justice.

Ingram Micro Sold Out For A Chunk Of Change


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Ingram Micro can be traced back to the founding of distributor Micro D., started by husband and wife team Geza Czige and Lorraine Mecca. The company was founded in Southern California, achieving $3.5 million in sales in just its first year. The company rapidly grew and went public in 1983.

Known as an American distributor of information technology products, the company was rated 64th in the Fortune 500 in 2016. However, in December 2016, China’s Tianhai Investment, now known as HNA Technology acquire the company in an all-cash transaction for $6 billion.

Strategic Hotels And Resorts Has 16 Hotels In The United States


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Chinese company Anbang owns businesses in car insurance, banking, and financial services, primarily. They were able to convince American company Blackstone to sell them $6.5 billion in hotels and resorts in The States.

This includes 16 landmark hotels in America, from the iconic Hotel del Coronado in San Diego to the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the JW Marriott Essex House hotel in Manhattan. As of 2017, Anbang has assets worth more than $301 billion.

IBM PC Division Eventaully Needed To Be Bought Out


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IBM Personal Computer was the original version of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It was introduced on August 12, 1981, and was created by a team of engineers and designers from Florida. Because of the success of IBM Personal Computers, the term “PC” became used frequently although the term had been in use since 1972.

Although IBM may have been an American company that helped push the home computer market forward, by 2000, it was beginning to falter. China’s Levono then bought the IBM’s PC Division for $1.25 billion in 2005.

The General Motors Building Was An icon For Decades


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The General Motors building is a 50-story building in Manhattan that has been the home of General Motors since 1968. It was then purchased by Donald Trump and Conseco for $878 million in 1998. It wasn’t long until it was repurchased by the Macjlowe Organization in 203 for 1.4 billion.

After changing hands a few more times, in 2013, Bejing real estate developer Soho China purchased a 40% stake in the building. It was the largest direct purchase of a US real estate Chinese investor of all time.

The Baccarat Hotel Was Too Good To Pass Up


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Only minutes from the Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art, the Baccarat has been deeply involved in New York’s art scene for a long time. The hotel was designed by Paris creative team Gilles & Boisser, the Baccarat walks is a tasteful blend between European flamboyance and American modesty.

While located in New York, in February 2015, the Sunshine Insurance Group, China’s seventh-largest insurance group, bought the Baccarat Hotel for $230M.

Vaseline Goes Back to 1872


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The first known reference of the name Vaseline was by the inventor of petroleum jelly, Robert Chesbrough in his patent for petroleum jelly in 1872. The name is said to be derived from the German word for water and the Greek word for olive oil.

Over the years, Vaseline grew into an extremely lucrative product and continued to be owned and produced by the American Chesebrough Manufacturing Company until it was eventually purchased by the British-Dutch company Unilever in 1987.

Hellmann’s And Best Foods Started American


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Hellmann’s and Best Foods are brand names that are used for the same line of foods and especially mayonnaise. Hellmann’s is sold in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains as well as in other parts of the world. Best Foods, on the other hand, is sold in the United States, west of the Rocky Mountains and in various other areas as well.

The two are marketed in the same way with everything on the label matching except for the brand of the product. While the company was founded in 1903, it was acquired by the British-Dutch company Unilever in 2000.

Lucky Strike Used To be One Of America’s Favorite Cigarettes


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Lucky Strike brand was introduced as a chewing tobacco in the United States in 1871 by the company R.A. Patterson. The brand of tobacco was inspired by the Gold Rush, hence the name “Lucky Strike.” The name implied that the customers of the tobacco were lucky, which was also used as a marketing campaign, and also to let them know they were using quality tobacco.

The company became extremely popular during the heyday of smoking and was one of the C-rations provided to the United States troops during World War II. As a result of British American Tobacco buying out American Tobacco Company in 1976, Lucky Strike came under the control of BAT.

French’s Mustard May Remind You of The Fourth Of July But Maybe It Shouldn’t


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French’s is an American brand of prepared condiments most notably mustard along with fried onions, and other food items. The company was started by Robert Timothy French, and French’s “Cream Salad Brand” was introduced to the world in 1904 at the St. Luis World Fair.

By 1921, the company had taken off and was being advertised in the form that we see it today. Although it was a successful American company for some time, it was acquired by the British company Reckitt Benckiser Group.

Adidas Started In Germany And Stayed There


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While many people would think that such a product so predominant in the United States such as Adidas would be American, they would be wrong. Adolph “Adi” Dassler of German helped to invent the sneaker in 1920 and started the company Dassler with his brother Rudolph.

After a quarrel, Rudolph went forward to create the company Puma and Adolph changed his company’s name to Adidas. Today, it is a German company that also owns Reebok.

The Flatiron Building Is Historical


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The Flatiron Building is located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City. Considered to be a groundbreaking skyscraper, the building was completed in 1902 and was one of the tallest buildings in the United States at 20 floors high. the building is referred to as “one of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers and a quintessential symbol of New York City.”

It became a designated landmark in 1966 and can be seen in countless films and is a famous tourist spot. In 2006, Italian real estate investor Valter Mainetti, who likes to collect trophy properties, bought a share of the Flatiron and brought his share up to 53%.

Caribou Coffee Didn’t Last Long Before It Was Bought


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The Caribou Coffee company and coffee chain was founded in Edina, Minnesota by John Puckett in 1992. After deciding to become an entrepreneur, he and his wife Kate took a road trip to Denali National Park, where the couple decided to try and raise money to start a coffee company.

Although beginning to see some success, they sold out to the Arcapita, which is backed by the Bahrain-based First Islamic Investment Bank. As of 2015, Caribou Coffee has 603 locations worldwide.

Dial Came From A Meat Packing Company


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In the beginning, the meat-packing company Armour sold canned and used byproduct tallow that was used to make soap. However, in 1948, they decided to add a germicide and rebranded the soap to become “Dial” because you could wear it for 24 hours or in their case, around the dial of a clock.

While the company exchanged hands for a number of years such as Greyhound, in 2004, the Dial Corporation was bought by the conglomerate Henkel KGaA, a company that is based in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Shell Was Never American


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That’s right, one of the United States most well-known oil and gas companies is not indeed American. The Royal Dutch Shell, commonly known as “Shell” is a British-Dutch oil and gas company that is headquartered int he Netherlands and incorporated in the United States.

Shell was formed in 1907 through the amalgamation of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company of the Netherlands and the “Shell” Transport and Trading Company of the United Kingdom. So, the next time you fill up your car from a Shell station, don’t thank America for the gas, thank Europe.