Article | Enterprise & Society | March 2012

Managing Political Risk in Global Business: Beiersdorf 1914-1990

by Geoffrey Jones and Christina Lubinski

Abstract

This article is concerned with business strategies of political risk management during the twentieth century. It focuses especially on Beiersdorf, a pharmaceutical and skin care company in Germany. During World War I, the expropriation of its brands and trademarks revealed its vulnerability to political risk. Following the advent of the Nazi regime in 1933, the largely Jewish owned and managed company faced a uniquely challenging combination of home and host country political risk. This article reviews the company's responses to these adverse circumstances, challenging the prevailing literature that interprets so-called "cloaking" activities as one element of businesses cooperation with the Nazis. It also departs from previous literature in assessing the outcomes of the company's strategies after 1945. It examines the challenges and costs faced by the company in recovering the ownership of its brands. While the management of distance became much easier over the course of the twentieth century because of communications improvements, this article shows that the challenges of managing governments and political risk grew sharply.

Keywords: Business Strategy; Government and Politics; Risk Management; Brands and Branding; Problems and Challenges; Communication Technology; Cost; Trademarks; Strategy; Pharmaceutical Industry; Germany;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey, and Christina Lubinski. "Managing Political Risk in Global Business: Beiersdorf 1914-1990." Enterprise & Society 13, no. 1 (March 2012): 85–119.