Corporations: Tuna Turnaround

In the mid-'50s, ruin seemed just around the corner for California's Van Camp Sea Food Co., the world's largest tuna-fish packer. Trapped between the rising costs of U.S.-caught tuna and mounting U.S. sales of Japanese brands cheaper than its Chicken of the Sea, the company watched its once hefty profits dwindle to the vanishing point. Recalls one senior Van Camp executive: "It was a question of either dying here or going elsewhere."

Van Camp's choice was to go elsewhere in search of cheaper labor. The first step was into American Samoa, where the company based a fishing fleet and built...

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