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Most monumental business blunders of all time

"Making the right call can make all the difference."

The business of business is not much without good decision making.

Making the right call can mean the difference between business success and business suicide.

As Julia Roberts said: Big, Big Mistake!

Picture this: London, 1962. A group of four long-haired musicians from Liverpool are trying to impress a well-known record exec.

Perhaps he just had a bad lunch or an argument with his wife that morning. Whatever the reason, the audition was a flop and the boys were told to pack up their stuff and leave the offices of the Decca record company.

They were told they sounded unoriginal and that their style was on the way out.

That group, The Beatles, went on to sign with Decca's rival Parlophone (an EMI subsidiary) soon after and became the biggest band in the world. Ever. Their back catalogue was valued at near $US200 million in 2005.

The Empire That Got Away

In the late 1970s, the movie industry hadn't really cottoned on to the power of merchandising.

So, when an upstart producer with some business savvy and a seemingly geeky movie to plug, asked to purchase the rights to the product spin-offs from his movie, the executives at 20th Century Fox figured ‘Sure! We can use the $20,000 he's offering anyway.’

While Fox did amazingly well out of the subsequent Star Wars' series, the merchandise revenue from the franchise, the rights to which Fox sold for $20,000, is now into its fourth billion and counting – that producer, Star Wars' creator George Lucas, has built his own empire on that relatively tiny investment.

What’s in a Name?

Coca-Cola in 1985 was doing fine when someone decided the eponymous, iconic drink needed a revamp. The new drink scored well in taster tests and looked to be a winner.

Then the big mistake: It was called New Coke.

The power of the company's own marketing genius actually ensured it was the package and the emotional appeal it had, not the product that gripped consumers.

Changing the name undermined that pull and upset the delicate balance Coca-Cola had worked tirelessly to keep alive for a century… But, they seem to have recovered well.

Do’s and DOS

When the leading computer maker of the day, IBM, started developing some of the first personal computers, it approached Gary Kildall to design the software.

A meeting was set up that was to become arguably the most important meeting ever in one of the globe's major business sectors. Gary Kildall didn't see it that way though and blew the meeting off.

Things never quite recovered and within months, IBM had swung in with Bill Gates, his fellow geek Paul Allen and their DOS system. Their company, Microsoft became the biggest company in the world, building a giant on the back of that lucrative IBM deal.

Today, Bill Gates' personal wealth is estimated at around $US80 billion.

In business, it’s easy to get access to plenty of information. What’s harder though is to have a feel for the market. As each of these examples, and others in the pantheon of bad decisions (AOL/Time Warner, Western Union refusing the phone, Kodak ignoring digital) show, it can happen to the best 

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