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The coming mass extinction of Fortune 500 companies

American motors car
The American Motors AMX, 1966. Photo: Pat Brollier, Darryl Norenberg/Enthusiast Network/Getty

Just 60 of the Fortune 500 of 1955 remain in the hallowed group. The rest (like American Motors, above, subsumed by Chrysler in 1987) have been largely the victims of changing times, tough competition or their own missteps.

What's happening: Tom Siebel, founder of C3.ai, an artificial intelligence firm that serves big corporations and the Army, says that this is an existential moment for current Fortune 500 companies that don't move quickly to adapt to the new age of AI and robotics.

"We are in a mass extinction event," says Siebel, who stopped by the office last week to talk about his new book, "Digital Transformation."

Westinghouse, Sears, and Toys "R" Us are among the slain former giants, Siebel notes. "You have companies with new DNA filling the voids in the ecosystem. You have Amazon rolling everyone. If you are Walmart, you are looking down that barrel of a gun. You are in a world of hurt," he said.

Siebel is describing one of the current megatrends:

  • Last month, we reported that the day of the conglomerate is over: From globe-spanning companies, they are being forced by political and economic circumstance into regional operations.
  • The FT's Rana Faroohar says companies are adapting to "the age of deglobalization."

"It's either you're on the train or you're on the track," says Siebel.