Bankruptcy looms large for General Motors. On March 30, President Obama wielded the "B" word like a sword, promising 60 more days of federal funding to keep the struggling carmaker afloat while it desperately tries to convince its constituencies including bondholders, labor unions, pensioners, suppliers and dealers to give up some of what they're owed in order to keep the firm alive. After that, all bets are off. Bankruptcy protection, and the ability it gives a company to break contracts and ruthlessly get rid of debt, might prove the only remaining option. (Chrysler also got a federal lifeline, but just for 30 days and specifically to hash out a merger with the Italian automaker Fiat.)
If GM does declare bankruptcy, it will be one for the ages. Since 1980, only 36 public companies with more than $10 billion in assets have gone bankrupt, according to a database maintained by UCLA Law School's Lynn LoPucki. Some two-thirds of large companies that enter bankruptcy emerge as stand-alone enterprises though typically at half the size.
Here's a look at some of the most memorable bankruptcies.