Japanese temple-building company Kongo Gumi has gone under, after 1,428 years in business. The company was done in by two unrelated factors: (1) heavy borrowing in the 1980s to invest in real estate left the company with debt it could no longer service when the Japanese real estate market slowed down, and (2) a sharp decline in temple contributions since 1998.
Kongo Gumi was a family-run business -- but unlike many such companies, it did not rigidly require that the company pass to the eldest son of the next generation. Indeed, in several instances, women were installed as the top executive, as were sons-in-law, and in some instances, younger brothers, when it was shown that they were more fit to lead the company than their older brothers.
Moreover, the company's singular focus -- building Buddhist temples, and little else -- is credited for much of its success. That the company delved heavily in real estate in the past few decades is cited as evidence that the company had lost sight of the prevailing philosophy and singular focus that had enabled it to thrive for a remarkable fourteen centuries.