Carry That Weight

Laden with debt from the merger-manic 1980s, American companies struggle to lighten their loads as the rough weather of a recession begins to rock them

For corporate America, the past decade was a time of easy money and hell- bent expansion. As capital poured in from eager lenders in the U.S. and overseas, American firms went on an unprecedented credit binge. Commercial IOUs soared from $829 billion in 1980 to $2 trillion last year, enabling corporations to finance a record number of buyouts, restructurings and stock buybacks. But with the economy on the verge of a recession and many businesses leveraged to the hilt, companies are struggling to shape up and reduce debt loads. "Corporations are discovering that debt is a double-edged sword," says Edward Tyburczy,...

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