The natural average lifespan of a company could be 2 or 3 centuries or more, but there are only a few examples of that (Sumitomo is one). Shockingly, however, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company is only 45 years, and ONE-THIRD of the Fortune 500 companies in 1970 had vanished by 1983! Those are our largest companies, which are thought to be the most stable ones.
Just in this past decade, look at the ten largest companies which went bankrupt, causing their shareholders to lose absolutely incredible amounts of money: Enron, Worldcom, GM, Chrysler, Pacific Gas & Electric, Conseco, Washington Mutual (the largest S&L), Thornburg Mortgage (a large mortgage REIT), CIT Group (a large business lender), Lehman Bros (a 158-year-old investment bank). Then, consider that there are hundreds more companies of smaller size, which failed. Talk about lost jobs and lost investments!
Companies are managed in such a way that they tend to fail rather quickly. It seems odd to me that a corporation, which is granted PERPETUAL existence and is supported by dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of dedicated, talented people who are committed to its success, nevertheless has a significantly shorter lifespan than we frail humans.
Of course, the case may be made that the primary cause of company failure is poor management at the top. If upper management, on average, performs so poorly and causes companies to fail, why are CEO's receiving $100million bonuses and salaries that are 300x the lowest-paid workers? I'm just asking.