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How Europe fell behind in the race to create global corporate giants

The entrepreneurial spirit in America and China is unmatched by big businesses on the Continent.

In 1984 a besuited twentysomething American executive on a visit to France offered Europeans a few tips for corporate success. Entrepreneurs needed to be given a second chance if they failed and government bureaucrats made for lousy investors, he told a television interviewer. His advice was sage. But European companies ruled the global corporate roost alongside those of America and, occasionally, Japan. Why should they take advice from this uppity Californian newcomer?

Nearly four decades later the company founded by that young upstart, Steve Jobs, is worth more than the 30 firms in the German blue-chip Dax index combined. Its value is not far off that of all 40 companies in France’s CAC index. Apple’s success has been notable, but it is the decline of...


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