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Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Kathryn A. Jones

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Retooling More than the Business

Meanwhile, Amway continued to expand overseas to Belgium, Switzerland, and Taiwan. Dick DeVos, Rich’s eldest son, was put in charge of international operations. Then Amway became the object of another company’s designs on international expansion. One day, Nicholson brought them the news that a major Japanese trading company wanted to acquire Amway. It was a tempting offer—Jay and Rich each would receive $1 billion in cash. Nicholson went to New York and was in discussions with the firm for several weeks. When it came time to make a final decision, though, the founders talked about it, then said, “No, Bill, we want to keep the whole thing.”27 They had sold businesses before when they weren’t working out or to make a profit. But Jay and Rich weren’t ready to quit. “We knew the Plan’s potential, and we knew we could never, in good conscience, pick up our chips and go home,” Jay said.28 Besides, the international business was getting interesting. Amway opened for business in Thailand in 1987, and new distributors signed up by the thousands in the first week. For the first time in Amway’s history, sales abroad surpassed sales in North America.

Amway was looking at a possible acquisition, too. In 1989, it teamed up with Minneapolis investor Irwin Jacobs to buy 10.3 percent of Avon’s outstanding common shares and indicated in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it might seek control of its larger rival in person-to-person sales. On May 11, ...

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