Some companies go to great lengths to stay under the radar. Whether that's to protect a secret recipe, strange business practice or simply due to eccentric personalities depends on the company. What's clear is that the below companies love to maintain an air of mystery.
Here are 11 of the most secretive companies in the world:
We all may be familiar with Tootsie Roll's "How many licks" slogan, as well as the taste of its famous candy, but the company's business practices are largely kept under wraps. Tootsie Roll <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577603662120397078.html" target="_hplink">hasn't offered clues to its succession</a> plan even though its CEO is in his 90s, according to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. In addition, the last analyst to follow the company stopped last year because it was too difficult to get information -- the maker of Charleston Chews, Blow Pops and other candies doesn't hold quarterly earnings calls and barely releases its statements.
Coca-Cola is notorious for taking great pains to guard the recipe to its elixer. Only <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/16/coca-cola-secret-recipe-discovered" target="_hplink">two of the company's top executives</a> knows the formula, which Coke claims has stayed secret since 1886, according to the <em>Guardian</em>. And those two executives can't travel together for fear they'll go down together, the recipe with them.
Bridgewater, the insanely successful hedge fund, was <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/25/110725fa_fact_cassidy?currentPage=all" target="_hplink">also insanely secretive</a>, at least until financial gossip site Dealbreaker got a copy of its principles, which the company had taken pains to keep hush-hush, according to the <em>New Yorker</em>. "Bridgewater is a cult. It's isolated, it has a charismatic leader and it has its own dogma," a former co-worker of Ray Dalio, the company's CEO, told a hedge fund magazine.
Apple is so secretive that there is essentially an entire<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/25/iphone-5-in-september-ipad-mini-october-apple-rumors_n_1830327.html?utm_hp_ref=technology" target="_hplink"> industry built around</a> creating, spreading and debunking rumors about the company. But Apple gave a small window into its secret world; <a href="http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/apple-patent-fight-with-samsung-spills-some-iphone-and-ipad-secrets-disruptions/?ref=business" target="_hplink">many of the documents released</a> during the Apple, Samsung patent dispute photos and prototypes illustrating how its devices are made, according <em>The New York Times</em>.
Trader Joe's, the grocery store chain known for never having sales, doesn't let much else be known about it. The company's California headquarters <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/20/news/companies/inside_trader_joes_full_version.fortune/index.htm" target="_hplink">doesn't have any signs</a> to mark it, according to CNNMoney. In addition, Trader Joe's is owned by a secretive German family, which may influence the company's decision to keep many of its business tactics under wraps.
There's no secret to putting together a piece of IKEA furniture. The same can't be said about the company's ownership structure. Investors and analysts <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-13/secret-ikea-fortune-put-in-the-spotlight-with-rights-sale" target="_hplink">got a rare glimpse</a> into the way the company functions after IKEA Group, the company's franchisor, earlier this year released its financial performance for the first time, according to <em>Businessweek</em>.
The fried chicken chain has gone as far as taking a couple to court to protect the recipe for its famed "finger-lickin' good" chicken. In 2001, <a href="http://money.ca.msn.com/investing/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=27702263&page=1" target="_hplink">KFC sued a Kentucky couple</a> that thought they found the chicken recipe in the basement of their home, according to MSN Money. KFC ultimately dropped the suit after they discovered the couple's recipe didn't match their own.
Thomas' English Muffins
Only seven people have <a href="http://money.ca.msn.com/investing/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=27702263&page=4" target="_hplink">seen the recipe</a> for those famous nooks and crannies-filled muffins, according to MSN Money. But keeping the prized-formula a secret is pricey. The company reportedly spends $90,000 per year to do it.
Known as a highly secretive company, Glencore kept its dealings under wraps even ahead of its IPO last year, according to CNBC. Visitors to the commodity trading firm's website leading up to Glencore's public debut wouldn't even be able to find <a href="http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-05-01-glencore-one-of-the-worlds-most-secretive-firms-goes-public" target="_hplink">the identity of its founder</a>, according to a report from the Daily Maverick at the time.
The name Monsanto can be a lightening rod for controversy, and nothing stokes activists' anger like the company's insistence on secrecy. Monsanto and other major pesticide companies have spent <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-rodale/why-ge-labeling-is-monsan_b_1788897.html" target="_hplink">$13.5 million to stop</a> a California ballot initiative that would require food made with genetically engineered crops be labeled as such. In addition, the company <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-03/monsanto-apple-nike-mcdonald-s-intellectual-property.html" target="_hplink">fought a court battle to protect</a> the patent on its formula for Roundup Ready crops, according to Bloomberg.
Now known as Academi LLC, the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater has <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204319004577089021757803802.html" target="_hplink">changed its name multiple times</a> partly in an aim to distance itself from some infamous incidents, according to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. The company's founder even <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">built up a secret mercenary army</a> with money from the United Arab Emirates to perform special operations in and outside the country,<em> The New York Times</em> reports.
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