These companies were local giants 30 years ago. Where are they now?

It’s a big deal when a local Fortune 100 company decides its top executives need to be elsewhere, although, as Raytheon said, the local workforce will not change. More importantly, the Raytheon news — two years after United Technologies bought the Massachusetts company and took over its name and headquarters — was a reminder that when change is the only constant in business, it can be instructive to remember where we went to understand what can await us.

This chart shows the 10 largest local companies ranked by market value 30 years ago (May 15, 1992, chosen because it was the cut-off date used in the special business section of the Globe 100 of that year ) and at the close of regular markets on Monday, after a sharp sell-off.

Keep in mind that publicly traded companies do not represent the full extent of business life in the region.

In addition to the moms and small businesses and small businesses that are the backbone of the economy, there are many referral employers – hospitals and health insurers, investment companies, universities – that are non-profit or private. . Institutions such as Mass General Brigham, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Fidelity Investments, Harvard and MIT – to name a few – have played an increasingly central role in driving the Massachusetts economy. . But for the purposes of this column, let’s focus on the companies whose successes and failures are reflected daily in their stock prices.

For starters, it might be obvious to longtime followers of the local business scene that State Street (it dropped “Boston” from its name in 1997) stood out among the 1992 crowd. It was the only company that didn’t was not acquired.

Of the next 10 companies on the 1992 list, only three – TJX, Thermo Fisher Scientific and PTC – remain publicly traded today, and each has excelled in its field. Polaroid went bankrupt and the others – Stride Rite, Boston Edison, Millipore, Stratus Computer, Genzyme and Critical Care America – ended be part of other companies.

The big picture is clear: Massachusetts’ economy has thrived over the past three decades, even as the business landscape was continually reshaped by the rise of new industries, the demise of others, and mergers and acquisitions. incessant. Some call it creative destruction, others may prefer winner’s capitalism. Either way, digging through the archives, these are among the lessons that emerge.

Industry consolidation has taken away many of the region’s best-known companies.

Gillette, the famed razor maker, was still the state’s most valuable company in early 2005 when it agreed to be acquired by Procter & Gamble. The deal, valued at $58 billion, ended more than a century of local control. The company’s global shaving headquarters remained in South Boston, but Gillette’s Massachusetts workforce is considerably smaller than it was before the takeover.

Another vintage deal from 2005 was Adidas‘ $3.8 billion purchase of Reebok, the then Guangzhou-based sneaker and sportswear maker. Reebok had made an impressive comeback after falling out of fashion with consumers, and Adidas saw the company as a way to more aggressively compete with industry giant Nike. The relationship lasted until last year when Adidas unloaded Reebok, which had led to a drop in profits.

As Reebok reported to adidas headquarters in Germany, New Balance, a private company based in Brighton, flourished. And the state has become something of a center for shoe design and marketing. Brands such as Converse, Saucony and Stride Rite operate locally, although their owners are elsewhere.

Banks went on a furious spree of mergers and acquisitions in the 1990s. Shawmut National was acquired by Fleet Financial Group in 1995. Fleet bought the renamed BankBoston four years later. Fleet, which inherited naming rights to the new Boston Garden when it purchased Shawmut, was later taken over by Bank of America. Ironically, Bank of America is now run by Brian Moynihan, originally a Fleet executive who remained in Boston. There are still many banks, including outposts of national giants, regional ones like Providence-based Citizens, and local independents like Eastern Bank and Rockland Trust.

Utilities have been combining since the days of Thomas Edison. Boston Edison, about the epitome of a local company like we’ve ever had, merged with Commonwealth Energy System in 1999 to form NSTAR. Northeast Utilities then bought NSTAR, one of its many acquisitions, and then renamed Eversource. Meanwhile, New England Electric has been swallowed up by National Grid, a UK-based company that has established itself as a major supplier of electricity and gas in New England and New York.

Staying on top of technology is difficult, very difficult.

One of the main drivers of the so-called miracle of Massachusetts – the revitalization and expansion of the local economy in the 1980s – was the minicomputer, a precursor to today’s servers which are the backbone of the internet. But in 1992, state minicomputer makers were on the wrong side of the personal computer revolution.

By mid-May of that year, Digital Equipment’s stock price was down 78% from its 1987 high, even though it remained the third most valuable company in the state. Shares of Wang Laboratories and Data General also suffered. In 1999, the three companies were bought out at rock bottom prices; Data General was taken over by EMC Corp., a Hopkinton company that barely made it into the local top 50 publicly traded companies in 1992. (Footnote: EMC, which makes data storage systems, was hugely successful itself — until Dell stepped in and agreed to buy it for $63 billion in 2015.)

On the other hand, Lotus Development has surfed the PC wave, with its spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3 become one of the first killer apps for desktop computers. But the Cambridge company struggled to come up with another blockbuster. IBM bought it in 1995.

Nevertheless, some tech companies have been remarkably durable. Analog Devices was founded in 1965 and the maker of signal processing circuits used in everything from cars to cell phones to video games has persevered through good times and bad. The Wilmington company has a market value of $77 billion. Likewise, Teradyne, a maker of semiconductor test equipment, was founded in 1960 and has survived the chip industry’s brutal ups and downs since then. Shares of the North Reading company have returned an average of 13% a year over the past 30 years, outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

While Massachusetts no longer has a dominant tech giant like Digital Equipment, local entrepreneurs have launched a steady stream of innovative companies. Among them: Akamai, HubSpot, Rapid7, Toast, TripAdvisor and Wayfair.

Biotechnology has kept its promise.

Thirty years ago, biotechnology was full of potential, few profits. There were three biotechs among the top 100 publicly traded companies in the state: Genzyme, Biogen and Cambridge Biotech. Their stories illustrate the benefits and pitfalls of the industry.

Genzyme was early in the game, created in 1981 to buy up biotech companies. Its initial blockbuster was a drug to treat Gaucher disease, a rare genetic disorder, and it grew steadily until it was acquired by Sanofi for $19 billion in 2011.

Cambridge Biotech, which began researching vaccines for HIV, Lyme disease and other diseases, never got started and went bankrupt in 1994.

The Biogen Inc. corporate headquarters is shown March 11, 2020 in Cambridge, Mass. Steven Senne/Associated Press

And Biogen became the most valuable biotech in the state with its treatments for multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy – until it was overtaken by Vertex and Moderna. Biogen suffered a major setback last year when insurers, including Medicare, refused to fully cover its controversial treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Vertex went public in 1992 and hit big with its cystic fibrosis treatments. Moderna, founded in 2010, did not make a profit until its COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in 2020. It went from a net loss of $514 million in 2019 to a net profit of $12.2 billion last year.

Today, after many successes, failures and takeovers, 18 biotechs are in the top 100, and hundreds of other public and private companies operate here.

Additionally, related industries have grown in tandem with biotechnology, including medical devices, where Boston Scientific is the largest local player, and life science service providers such as Charles River Laboratories.

Which brings us to the most valuable company in Massachusetts today: Thermo Fisher Scientific. The company is the product of the merger of Thermo Electron and Fisher Scientific International in 2006. Both companies specialized in scientific and laboratory equipment, and together they rode the biotech boom for dramatic growth.

Their combined market capitalization at the time of the merger was approximately $14 billion; today it is 200 billion dollars. Since the deal was struck, the stock has returned an average of 17% annually, nearly double the S&P 500.

It’s fair to say that few people in 1992 would have chosen Thermo Electron to win.

It’s worth keeping in mind as we review today’s list and think about how it will evolve over the next 30 years.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Analog Devices was headquartered.


Larry Edelman can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.

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