The Ones That Got Away


Sometimes saying “no” can feel like the safest path. But what about those big deals that should have, could have become life-changing for a company, had only some brave decision maker said yes? Here are some major blunders by risk averse executives who should have definitely said “yes” (and that should inspire sales professionals to persevere). History has not judged what they missed out on well.

A Blockbuster Fail

Remember when we used to have to go into a video store to rent a movie? Then along came Netflix, which offered to sell to rental behemoth Blockbuster in 2000 for $50 million dollars. Blockbuster said no, and faded away. Meanwhile, Netflix is valued at more than $120 billion. 

Thinking in Martian

When filmmaker Steven Spielberg approached Mars to do a product placement in exchange for a promotion, the team said no. Speilberg moved on to Hershey’s, whose failing Reese’s Pieces were featured prominently in the classic, E.T. the Extraterrestrial. The candy saw a 65% increase in profits.

Let There Be Light?

When word spread that Thomas Edison had a new invention that could light up the night, the Brits turned up their noses, with a parliament committee saying this electric light was fine for their unsophisticated friends across the Pond, “but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.” Edison went on to secure more than 1,000 patents and, well, a global legacy.

Search This

Back in 1999, the founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, decided to offer their then-nascent company to the Excite online portal for under $1 million. CEO George Bell wasn’t too, well, excited about the deal, and walked. Today, Google’s market cap is closing in on $1 trillion.  And Excite? It’s the 240th most-popular homepage — in Japan. 

Only in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Twentieth Century Fox studio didn’t understand the potential value of the Star Wars franchise, but mastermind George Lucas did. He took a hit to his director’s salary from Fox for the merchandising and licensing rights of all those that came after (and before). That little deal on prequels and sequels made George Lucas billions of dollars in toys and other merch, with his film empire finally being sold to Disney for more than $4 billion.

Those Deathly Hallows

Mega-author JK Rowling took her first Harry Potter book to some dozen publishers, all of whom passed. Who reads anymore, right? More than 450 million tweens (and adults), it turns out. Bloomsbury’s gamble resulted in ownership of the Harry Potter series, generating around $7.7 billion in books alone. The deal also make JK Rowling one of the richest people in the world, and possibly the first billionaire novelist

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