The global financial crisis and the rough road to recovery have brought the power of a company’s core business back into sharp focus. Like a collective commercial death wish, global market values rose in 2007 by a staggering 20 percent (denominated in dollars), reaching $61 trillion by year end. In just five years, $38 trillion had apparently been created in the stock markets—more value in terms of market capitalization than the global stock markets had recorded in their entire history.

But where did it really come from? In some cases, as we have found, not the right places. Crises of the core have appeared everywhere. AIG, the poster child of the financial collapse, described its error as getting too far away from its “core” of insurance ...

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