Economic Crisis Creates Some Winners, Too The financial crisis left a trail of victims in its wake, but there have also been some winners. Washington Mutual Bank disappeared, while other banks that survived now face less competition. Automakers GM and Chrysler survived, but many of their dealers didn't fare so well.
NPR logo

Economic Crisis Creates Some Winners, Too

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Economic Crisis Creates Some Winners, Too

Economic Crisis Creates Some Winners, Too

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


President Obama is scheduled to give a speech on Monday about the nation's financial collapse. He'll mark the anniversary of the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Over the past year, bank failures and government bailouts have changed the country's competitive landscape. Some industries have actually watched business bloom in the downturn. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: A busy corner in Seattle's University District is a good place to start our search for winners and losers.

Professor ALAN HESS (Finance and Business Economics, University of Washington): We're sitting on the steps of a Chase Bank at the corner of 43rd and Brooklyn.

KAUFMAN: Alan Hess, a finance professor at the University of Washington, says this Chase Bank used to be a branch of a Washington Mutual, the largest savings and loan in the country. But Hess says WaMu suffered huge loses from far too many subprime loans.

Professor HESS: And so, bam. They were gone.

KAUFMAN: The company was bought for pennies on the dollar by JP Morgan Chase. Other big name financial firms have also disappeared.

Mr. FRED CANNON (Chief Equity Strategist, Keefe, Bruyette and Woods): We essentially went through the 100-year flood in financial services. You know, some people are still floating, and there's a lot of wreckage as we see the water moves out.

KAUFMAN: Fred Cannon is chief equity strategist at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods.

Right now, two of the strongest institutions are JP Morgan Chase and the former investment bank Goldman Sachs. Bear Stearns, Wachovia, and Merrill Lynch were all been taken over by bigger companies. Lehman Brothers failed outright.

Mr. CANNON: They said, okay, here's 19 banks are over $100 billion. We're going to stress-test them, but we're also going to ensure they get enough capital to get by. They chose the winners. Each of those 19 are around today. They're all survivors.

KAUFMAN: And they have less competition than they used to. The competitive landscape in the auto industry has also changed. Last December, then-President George Bush announced he would bail out Chrysler and GM.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action.

KAUFMAN: Together, GM and Chrysler got tens of billions of dollars from the federal government, and says Wharton Professor Paul MacDuffie that allowed them to stay in business.

Professor PAUL MACDUFFIE (Management Department, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania): I'd say the biggest losers probably are the dealers that were discontinued by the Detroit Three Companies, and the communities that have closed assembly plants. No matter how well the industry comes back, there's very poor prospects of those dealers or those plants opening again.

(Soundbite of traffic)

Mr. JIM WHALEN (Owner, Kirkland Ford): Sounds like a car lot.

KAUFMAN: One dealership that's doing well is Kirkland Ford, the largest Ford dealer in Washington State. Ford didn't need or take any government bailout funds. And dealer/owner Jim Whalen says Ford has gotten a boost because of that.

Mr. WHALEN: It's big. It's really big. And it's, first of all, just given an awareness to Ford.

KAUFMAN: Various surveys show far more people would consider buying a Ford now than a year ago. Whalen says sales are up year over year and not just because of Cash for Clunkers.

Mr. WHALEN: We're seeing increased traffic levels. We're seeing trade-ins that we've never seen before. We're seeing types of shoppers that haven't considered us before — a lot of import buyers.

KAUFMAN: The auto and finance industries make headlines. But there are other winners and losers, too. Consumers are shopping at Wal-Mart, not at Neiman Marcus. They're buying alcohol, but not eating out in expensive restaurants. And they're traveling less.

Alphy Johnson, the COO of high-end Candela Hotels, says five-star resorts have suffered the most, in part because of the stigma associated with AIG. Shortly after the government bailed out the insurance giant, the company entertained clients at a very fancy resort. It didn't sit well.

Mr. ALPHY JOHNSON (COO, Candela Hotel): As a result of that, that hotel lost 90 percent of their group bookings the next day.

KAUFMAN: No one wanted to look like they were squandering money at that resort or other high-end hotels. But Johnson says for those who are still traveling...

Mr. JOHNSON: There are some great bargains out there. I mean it doesn't matter where you look.

KAUFMAN: Or you could skip the hotel altogether and pitch a tent.

(Soundbite of machinery)

KAUFMAN: At Cascade Designs in Seattle, workers are putting bright green covers over specialized foam to make inflatable mattresses. The company's Ken Meidell says more people are hitting the trails and going camping.

Mr. KEN MEIDELL (Vice President, Cascade Designs Incorporated): Some of that is probably a desire to get back to basics and things that people remember doing in their youth or in their 20s. And they're looking to rediscover that in an uncertain time. And that seems to be driving participation rates up.

KAUFMAN: Camping equipment is selling well. So add some outdoor gear equipment companies to the list of firms doing fine in these tough and uncertain economic times.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.