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This Is the Least Admired Company in America

Every year, companies do irreversible harm to their public image, either by making decisions that hurt their bottom line or by getting caught up in a scandal that tarnishes their image.

These financial and public relations issues can cause consumers to rethink their spending preferences, often making them avoid negatively viewed businesses. If one of these scandals becomes front-page news, it can be very difficult for the corporation to rehabilitate its image.

To determine the world’s least admired company for 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a survey from Fortune and management consulting firm Korn Ferry of over thousands of executives and analysts. For the survey, the largest companies by revenue were used to pick the finalists, and they were ranked, along with other companies in their industries, on criteria like innovation, quality of management and global competitiveness. Only companies that ranked in the lower half of their industry were considered for the top spot.

Many of the finalists have been involved in headline-grabbing scandals in recent years. They have been accused of producing faulty equipment, deceiving investors or even being responsible for fatal disasters. These headlines can shape public perception of the businesses for years. These are the companies with the best and worst reputations.

Many companies that rank among the least admired finalists have struggled financially in recent years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world’s economy. Chief executive officers are well compensated, and investors expect those running large companies to innovate, anticipate market trends and ensure the company is profitable. CEOs at the companies on the list often have failed in their duties.

Retailer J.C. Penney, founded in 1902, ranks as the world’s least admired company, according to the Fortune and Korn Ferry survey. It has been in dire financial straits for many years. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for its most recent financial predicament, but the retailer had only turned a profit in five quarters over the prior nine years. More than 150 J.C. Penney locations have closed in the past year, and the company plans to shutter more in 2021.

Methodology: In order to determine the world’s least admired company for 2021, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data provided by Fortune from its collaboration with management consulting firm Korn Ferry for the world’s most admired companies. These organizations surveyed over 3,800 executives, directors and analysts about the 1,000 largest U.S. companies by revenue, as well as non-U.S. companies with over $10 billion in revenue.

The finalists were ranked from best to worst in their industry based on nine criteria: innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, quality of products or services, and global competitiveness. Companies that ranked in the top half of their industry were not considered for this list. Due to low response rates, cable and satellite providers, petroleum refining companies and U.S. energy businesses were not considered.

Click here to see the world’s 25 least admired companies.

Click here to see America’s most hated companies.