Stretching a Contract

Liberia and Firestone go way back. A revised deal gives a wrecked nation new hope

MICHAEL ZUMSTEIN / OEIL PUBLIC

Each Firestone rubber tapper tends 800 trees daily.

Liberia and Firestone. Few country-and-company couplings have been as enduring as the one between the iconic American rubber and tire company and the West African nation germinated by onetime American slaves, even though the former is now owned by Japan's Bridgestone and the latter has suffered disastrously from civil war.

What began in 1926 is entering a renewed phase that is evidence of Liberia's return from chaos and the determination of the government--aided by high-powered nonprofit experts--to get more value for the nation's assets. The relationship started soon after scion Harvey Firestone Jr. joined the family business and was dispatched on...

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