8 American Brands Now Owned by Foreign Companies

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Trader Joe's store
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Many brands were started by working-class Americans and skyrocketed in success, going from local businesses to national or even global household names. Some American-made brands don’t always remain based in the U.S., though.

Some foreign companies see acquiring brands that have been marketed as American-made for decades as a great opportunity to do business in the U.S. There’s already a strong customer base for them to quietly tap into.

You may be surprised to see that the following American staples aren’t so American anymore.

1. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's produce section
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Where this company was founded: Pasadena, California

Who owns this company now: Aldi Nord, headquartered in Essen, Germany

Joe Coulombe was running a struggling convenience store when he decided to switch gears and open a grocery store chain. Coulombe said he wanted to create a store for those who see food as an adventure and who longed for something more than name-brand goods. In 1967 he opened up shop, and in 1979 he sold the chain to the family of Theo Albrecht, then-owner of the Aldi grocery chain in Europe.

2. 7-Eleven

Slurpee at 7-Eleven
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Where this company was founded: Dallas, Texas

Who owns this company now: Seven & i Holdings Co., headquartered in Tokyo, Japan

The chain started out in 1927 as Southland Ice Co., selling ice blocks for food preservation to homes without electric refrigerators. It went through bankruptcy during the Great Depression and reorganized with an emphasis on food and drinks. In the 1940s, the company aptly named itself 7-Eleven because of its hours of operation — 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. — although in 1963 many stores began to operate 24/7.

3. Sunglass Hut

Sunglass Hut store
Kamni Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: Miami, Florida

Who owns this company now: EssilorLuxottica, headquartered in Paris, France

In 1971, optometrist Sanford Ziff decided he would cater to Miami residents by providing them protection from the Florida sun. Two decades later it expanded to Australia and the United Kingdom before being bought by in 2000 by Luxottica, which is now EssilorLuxottica.

4. Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn hotel
Bjoern Wylezich / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: Memphis, Tennessee

Who owns this company now: InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), headquartered in Berkshire, England

Affordable roadside inns: Wwhat seems like a given today was revolutionary back in the ’50s. Motels were often expensive and lacked amenities.

Kemmons Wilson was on a road trip with his family in 1951, traveling from New York to Washington, when he decided he’d create a chain to provide traveling Americans with reliable accommodations. The next year, he opened the first Holiday Inn in Memphis.

Today, the chain has hotels across the world and an international parent company.

5. Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods pork processing plant
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: Smithfield, Virginia

Who owns this company now: WH Group, based in Hong Kong

Father-and-son duo Joseph W. Luter Sr. and Joseph W. Luter Jr. opened the Smithfield Packing Co. in 1936. They started small, purchasing 15 hog carcasses a day, then cutting, boxing and selling them to local businesses.

Today, the company estimates that its helps feed nearly 8 billion people worldwide, and is owned by a Chinese conglomerate.

6. Forbes

Forbes magazines
Viktor Prymachenko / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: New York

Who owns this company now: Primarily, Integrated Whale Media Investments, based in Hong Kong

Scottish immigrant Bertie Charles Forbes worked as a columnist in New York before starting Forbes Magazine in 1917. He worked as editor-in-chief for nearly four decades before his son, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, took over. Forbes’ grandson, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes Jr., better known as Steve Forbes, would also go on to run the publication.

In 2014, Forbes Media sold a majority stake in the company to a group of international investors, Integrated Whale Media Investments, although the Forbes family retained a stake.

7. Dirt Devil

vacuuming
VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: Cleveland, Ohio

Who owns this company now: Techtronic Industries Co., headquartered in Hong Kong

The Dirt Devil brand started out in 1905 as the P.A. Geier Co., one of the world’s first vacuum companies, and introduced the first hand-held vac, the “Royal Prince,” in 1937. In the 1950s, it merged with an investment group that has gone by a few names, including Royal Appliance Manufacturing, which introduced the iconic cordless Dirt Devil Hand Vac in 1984.

Today, Royal and the Dirt Devil brand (as well as Hoover) are part of Charlotte, North Carolina-based TTI Floor Care North America, which is a division of Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries Co.

8. Firestone

Firestone tire store
Eric Glenn / Shutterstock.com

Where this company was founded: Akron, Ohio

Who owns this company now: Bridgestone, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan

A fourth-generation farmer, Harvey S. Firestone, birthed the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1900 in Akron, later known as “Rubber City” due to its tire production industry. While most producers in the area created automobile tires, Firestone specialized in tires for farm tractors. By 1955, Firestone was producing 1 million pounds of rubber per day.

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