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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WeWork becomes a public company today worth more than $9 billion — a vindication of the expensive turnaround strategy employed after it spectacularly imploded in 2019. Like many companies that find themselves at death's door, that which didn't kill them made them stronger.

Why it matters: Hertz, Alamo Drafthouse, Airbnb, and Toast are among the currently-thriving companies that were shaken to the core in the early days of the pandemic — providing further evidence for the theory that, in the words of former Fast Company editor Bill Taylor, "companies can't be great unless they've almost failed."

The big picture: Companies that have returned more than 10,000% over 30 years — "superstocks," as they were christened by fund manager William Bernstein of Efficient Frontier Advisors — all tend to crash at least once along the way.

  • Buying Apple stock 30 years ago would have been a fantastic investment, for instance: A $100 investment in October 1991 would be worth some $40,000 today.
  • It was a very bumpy ride, however: The same $100 would have been worth just $26.75 at the end of 1997.

Where it stands: The pandemic dealt a near-fatal blow to many companies, especially in the services sector, which were then forced to retrench and rationalize.

  • Airbnb was forced to lay off a quarter of its workforce when the pandemic hit, after "everything stopped working at the same time," according to its CEO. It then went public at the end of 2020, and is now worth more than $100 billion.
  • Hertz and Alamo Drafthouse both went through cleansing bankruptcies before emerging as stronger versions of their former selves, no longer burdened with legacy debts and unwanted properties.

The bottom line: If great success comes out of abject failure, then most of the time it arrives after idiosyncratic disaster — think the Qwikster debacle at Netflix, for instance, which caused its stock price to fall 77% in four months.

  • The pandemic, by contrast, was systemic, hitting thousands of companies simultaneously. That's caused a rare event: Many companies (think Toast) are now soaring up the stock charts as part of a broad-based post-pandemic rebound from deep crisis lows.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Nov 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

Rental vehicle stocks pop after turn to electric vehicles

Data:FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Hertz and Avis have discovered the magic that electric vehicles can have on share prices.

Why it matters: Both companies have increased in value after announcing ambitious plans to move aggressively into renting out EVs.

Updated 15 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."