My books are
also available
in eBook and
audio editions


& Speaking

Contact me at

Local Companies Look To Far Horizons

April, 2011

by Dave Donelson

Westchester may not be the center of the universe, but it is the nucleus of decision-making for many companies with operations that span the globe.  You’ll recognize many of them with household names like IBM, Pepsi, and MasterCard. We found several others, though, with billions of dollars in sales but much less name recognition.  Excluding financial firms and companies without foreign operations, here are the eight largest multinational corporations headquartered in Westchester.

CEO: Samuel Palmisano
Annual Sales: $99.8 billion
Employees Worldwide: 399,409
Employees Westchester: 7,500
Countries 170 +

IBM celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year, and you have to wonder if Thomas Watson would recognize his business machine company today.  The company’s reputation was earned making computers (and it still does), but now nearly all of the company’s profits come from software, services, and financing.  Hardware accounted for less than 20% of total sales last year, while services—consulting, strategic outsourcing, integrated technology services, business transformation outsourcing, and maintenance—made up 57% while software sales contributed most of the rest .

IBM is a technology company, all right, but it’s just as likely today to use that digital expertise to analyze your business, your competitors, or even your customer base as it is to sell you a data system.  In fact, of the more than 4,900 U.S. patents IBM received in 2009, more than 70 percent were for software and services.  Speaking of patents, IBM spent $6 billion on research last year—much of it in Yorktown and Hawthorne at the T. J. Watson Research Center, one of four company facilities in the county.

The company may have far-flung interests, but it also supports many local groups and causes.  In the last two years alone, IBM made grants to schools and nonprofit organizations in Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Bedford, Hawthorne, Ossining, New Rochelle, Mount Kisco, White Plains, Tarrytown, Port Chester, and Pleasantville. 

From helping the Bank of Russia to reduce payment processing costs by 95% to helping 439 cities around the world reduce travel delays through ramp metering and signal coordination, IBM is doing a lot more than pitting supercomputer Watson against the stars of Jeopardy.

CEO: Indra Nooyi
Annual Sales: $60 billion
Employees Worldwide: 285,000
Employees Westchester: 3,000
Countries: 200+

From the Cap’n Crunch and Tropicana orange juice that starts your day to the Cheetos and Mountain Dew that keep you awake through Jay Leno’s monologue, PepsiCo sells a product for you.  It’s not all junk food, either.  The company proudly claims that about $10 billion of PepsiCo’s  $60 billion in sales comes from nutritious products including fruit juices, oatmeal, nuts and seeds, and dairy products.  It counts Gatorade sports drinks in that category, too, and says it hopes to triple that part of the business by 2020.  Just a little over half of the company’s revenues comes from beverages; 48% is produced by snacks and foods.  

The original product, Pepsi-Cola, was created in 1898 by a pharmacist in North Carolina.  The modern company is the result of a marriage made in heaven between soft drinks and salty snacks in 1965 when Pepsi merged with Frito-Lay.  Today’s PepsiCo is the result of a decade of restructuring that included the spin-off of its restaurant group (Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut) and the acquisitions of Tropicana and Quaker Oats (which brought Gatorade to the company). Last year, Pepsi Bottling Group was brought into the fold.  Indian-born Indra Nooyi, the company’s fifth CEO, led the company makeover.

In addition to the sculpture-bedecked campus in Purchase, the company bottling operations are headquartered in Somers. There are additional offices in Valhalla and Hawthorne.  Just as Pepsi products seem to be ubiquitous, the company’s Westchester workforce is everywhere, too, especially where help is needed.  The company partners with the United Way and Westchester Food Bank and volunteers help out Green Chimneys and Muscoot Farm among others.

Bunge Ltd
White Plains
CEO: Alberto Weisser
Annual Sales: $42 billion
Employees Worldwide: 32,000
Employees Westchester: 210
Countries: 30

This may be the largest Westchester company you’ve never heard of, although you’ve probably consumed one of their products, at least indirectly.  Bunge sells fertilizers and livestock feed to farmers around the world, buys their crops, and produces bottled oils, mayonnaise, margarine, and other food products for retail sale (mostly overseas) as well as ingredients like canola and other oils for bakeries, brewers, and other commercial customers who use them to make snack foods, cookies, cakes, crackers and icings. From input to output, the company operates all along the farmer-to-consumer food chain.

Bunge was founded as an import/export trading firm in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 1818, expanding in North and South America until finally moving its headquarters to White Plains from Sao Paolo in 1999 to be closer to world financial centers. It went public in 2001. CEO Alberto Weisser has multinational roots, too.  He was educated in Sao Paolo and worked in Brazil, Mexico, and Germany before coming to the U.S.

Bunge’s Westchester workforce may be small in relation to the rest of the company’s operations, but they’re an active group in the community.  Through the Bunge Volunteers program they work with the White Plains Youth Bureau, the Food Bank, and other local organizations.

ITT Corporation
White Plains
CEO: Steven Loranger
Annual Sales: $11 billion
Employees Worldwide: 40,200
Employees Westchester: 400
Countries: 140+

ITT Corporation has seen more changes than the dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera, acquiring, being acquired, spinning off, splitting up, and re-combining literally hundreds of operating companies in the last fifty years and becoming a poster child for conglomeration as a corporate strategy in the process.  Along the way, it owned everything from 25% of the company that made fighter planes for Germany’s Luftwaffe to Avis Rent-a-Car, the Sheraton Hotel chain to Burpee Seeds.  At one time in the early sixties, acquisitions averaged one per month.

Today’s company, headquartered in White Plains, has three principal businesses producing defense electronics, water control technology, and high-tech pumps, valves, and control systems.  True to form, ITT announced plans in January to separate into three stand-alone public companies.  ITT Corporation will remain an industrial company headquartered in White Plains with pro forma 2011 revenue of $2.1 billion.  It will be headed by the company’s current Chief Financial Officer, Denise Ramos. The other two companies will be the water technology ($3.6 billion) and defense ($5.8 billion) businesses.  It’s not expected that any significant number of jobs will be lost since the water technology company (yet to be named) will remain here and the defense business is already mostly located in McLean, Virginia.

Jarden Corp.
CEO: Martin Franklin
Annual Sales: $6 billion
Employees Worldwide: 20,000
Employees Westchester: 50
Countries: 100+

Jarden houses a huge portfolio of consumer brands, producing products as diverse as Coleman lanterns, Mr. Coffee coffeemakers, and Bicycle playing cards.  While the company has undergone several name changes and acquisitions, it began when the Ball corporation spun off its canning business—home of the “Ball” jar—in 1993.  The current name, “Jarden” was adopted in 2002 to reflect the company’s roots (“jar”)  and its product array.  The company has been in Rye since its inception, mainly because that’s the home of Chairman and CEO Martin Franklin.

Rye is also where the company sponsors the annual Jarden Westchester Triathlon, where a thousand athletes compete in an Olympic distance race benefitting (this year) the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Jarden’s portfolio of brands results from a string of acquisitions in the last decade that included several iconic names like Sunbeam, Coleman, Rival, and Crockpot, not to mention Diamond (matches) and Rawlings (baseballs).  The original product, the Ball jar, represents a minor percentage of the company’s annual sales.  Last year, Jarden expanded its international presence by acquiring Mapa Spontex, makers of baby care and home care products widely distributed in Europe and Latin America.  The $500 million acquisition raises international sales to nearly 40% of the company’s total revenues.

MasterCard Worldwide
CEO: Ajay Banga
Annual Sales: $5.5 billion
Employees Worldwide: 5,600
Employees Westchester: 800
Countries: 210

One share of MasterCard stock, about $260.  Worldwide purchases on MasterCard cards, $2.5 trillion.  Headquarters in Westchester, priceless.

MasterCard Worldwide is one of the most multi-national companies in the county.  Well over half its revenues come from outside the U.S., something that’s not a new development.  The company has long had a major international presence and claims to have issued the first credit card in the People’s Republic of China—in 1987.  Even the company’s CEO, Ajay Banga, is a classic citizen of the world. He was born and educated in India and worked for Nestle and Citigroup with senior management roles in the U.S., Europe, Middle East, and Africa before he joined MasterCard.

In Westchester, MasterCard has long been a major supporter of organizations like Junior Achievement, Children’s Village, and the Salvation Army. In March, 150 employees worked with nearly 2,000 students in 71 classrooms in Yonkers.

Around the globe, MasterCard processes more than 22 billion transactions annually—that’s about 700 ka-chings every minute of every day.  But note that MasterCard is basically a franchisor.  While it processes and guarantees payment for purchases at more than 29 million locations, a plethora of financial institutions actually issue cards, sets fees, and manage relationships with cardholders and merchants.  In other words, if you’ve got a problem with your credit card bill, don’t knock on the door at MasterCard’s headquarters in Purchase.

Central National-Gottesman
CEO: Kenneth Wallach
Annual Sales: $3.6 billion
Employees Worldwide: 1,000
Employees Westchester: TKTK
Countries: 58

One of the world’s largest privately-held companies, Central National-Gottesman sells just about everything you need to print a book, magazine, newspaper, or anything else on paper.  From wood pulp to fine paper to packaging, the company supplies publishers, printers, and manufacturers in Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Thailand, Russia, China, and all points in between.  While the company sells some 4 million tons of paper annually, it doesn’t make any of it—it’s a distributor.

In February, the company announced its latest overseas expansion, accomplished when it purchased controlling interest in one of Turkey’s leading paper merchants, Korda, which is headquartered in Istanbul and operates warehouses in three other cities.

The company was founded by Mendel Gottesman in 1886, the same year he came to the U.S. from Hungary.  His great-grandson, Kenneth Wallach, serves as the CEO today.  The company took a big leap forward in 1984 when it acquired Lindenmeyr Paper, another NY City-based company founded by European immigrants that dates back to 1859.

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings
CEO: William Flynn
Annual Sales: $1.3 billion
Employees Worldwide: 1,150
Employees Westchester: 400
Countries: 110

The third largest air cargo carrier in the world—trailing only Federal Express and UPS—operates from headquarters in Purchase, directing the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 747 all-cargo aircraft—40 planes in service with 12 more on order.  While Atlas flies to any city in the world capable of handling the big planes, it’s an especially major player in the Pacific.  In fact, the company’s first flight was from Taiwan to the US carrying Eddie Bauer polo shirts and Nike shoes. Today, the company ships anything from Lady Gaga’s concert equipment and Formula One race cars to iPads from Asia and blueberries from Argentina.  It also provides numerous aviation-related services, including crew training for Air Force One pilots.

Last year, sales surged from charter delivery of products not quite so cheery, mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles (M-ATVs) to Afghanistan.  Chief Operating Officer John Dietrich adds, “We are also extremely proud of our twice-weekly time-critical flights which carry blood supplies for our troops from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Al Udeid Airport in Qatar.  The blood that we carry is distributed to medical facilities in the Afghanistan.”

The company’s founder was Michael Chowdry, a Pakistan-born émigré who fled his native land in 1970.  At the age of 21, he paid his tuition at the University of Minnesota by flying crop dusters in rural North Dakota, the start of an aviation career that ended in 2001 when he crashed his personal jet in Watkins, Colorado.    

Atlas Air’s major subsidiary is Polar Air Cargo, a scheduled service all-cargo carrier partially owned by DHL Express.  Dietrich says the company moved its corporate headquarters from Denver to Purchase in 2000 to consolidate with its 24/7 dispatch and operating functions, which it relocated from JFK airport.