Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2010 (Revised September 2013)

The Guggenheims and Chilean Nitrates

by Geoffrey G. Jones and Felipe Tamega Fernandes

Abstract

The case describes the growth of Guggenheim Brothers as one of the largest mining companies in the world in the early twentieth century. Global expansion led the firm to Chile, first in copper and later in natural nitrates. Chile's economic growth was driven by the profits from mining, especially its world monopoly of nitrates. The Guggenheims invested in Chilean nitrates after synthetics were developed by German chemists. Their strategies to modernize the industry collapsed with the outbreak of the Great Depression, during which Chile experienced the greatest fall of incomes of any country. The case serves as a vehicle to explore the devastating economic and political impact of the Great Depression on the countries of the South, such as Chile, which had specialized in primary commodities, and on mining and financial capitalists such as the Guggenheims.

Keywords: History; Venture Capital; Business History; Entrepreneurship; Globalization; Foreign Direct Investment; Financial Crisis; Mining Industry; Chile;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey G., and Felipe Tamega Fernandes. "The Guggenheims and Chilean Nitrates." Harvard Business School Case 810-141, June 2010. (Revised September 2013.)