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Business International Corporation (BI) was a publishing and advisory firm dedicated to assisting American companies in operating abroad. In 1986, Business International was acquired by The Economist Group in London, and eventually merged with The Economist Intelligence Unit. BI has been known to be used as a CIA front company, and was where Barack Obama first worked upon graduating from Columbia University.


Founded in 1953 by Eldridge Haynes and his son, Elliott Haynes, BIC initially focused on American companies and started out with a weekly newsletter (called Business International) and a group of key corporate clients. Offices were established overseas, including major regional operations based out of Vienna (East Europe and the USSR) and Hong Kong (Asia-Pacific), and single-country offices (e.g., Rome, Tokyo).

BI eventually became the premier information source on global business with research, advisory functions, conferences and government roundtables in addition to its publications. It was headquartered in New York Citymarker, with major offices in Genevamarker, Londonmarker, Viennamarker, Hong Kongmarker and Tokyomarker, and a network of correspondents across the globe.

In his book The Strawberry Statement, former student protester James Kunen reports a description of Business International by an unnamed Students for a Democratic Society conference attendee in 1968. The attendee, referred to by Kunen as 'the kid', claimed the company offered to finance SDS demonstrations in Chicago. Business International is described as 'the left wing of the ruling class' and as desiring a Gene McCarthy presidency.


Publications included a family of newsletters (Business International, Business Europe, Business Eastern Europe, Business Latin America, Business Asia, Business China, and Business International Money Report), put out on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. Among the regularly updated reference products covering 40-50 countries were Financing Foreign Operations(FFO), Investment, Licensing and Trading Conditions Abroad (ILT) and China Hand). An international business, politics and economic forecasting service (Business International Forecasting Service, BIFS) evolved from an annual five-year outlook to quarterly and in some cases even more frequent reports. More specialized work covered economic and political risk assessment, and executive cost of living in various cities around the world.

In addition, Business International published book-length reports on a variety of topics, including such titles as 30 Business Checklists, India: Limited Avenues to an Unlimited Market, and Structuring & Locating your Asian Headquarters.

Research and consulting

BI also conducted specialized research assignments for its clients, some of which involved hands-on consulting, brainstorming and briefings during strategic planning sessions. Although country analysts might be pulled into region-wide or country specific work, the company also had a dedicated team in the Research and Consulting (later, Consulting and Research) division.


BI was perhaps best known outside the United States for its Roundtable Conferences. Begun in the 1950 with topics usually focused on single countries and their governments (e.g., Roundtable with the Government of Mexico), the series evolved in the 1970s to include region-wide, multi-day conferences such as the Heads of Asia Pacific Operations (HAPO) and Heads of Latin American Operations (HELAO) roundtables. Attendees were generally regional C-level executives and sometimes visitors from headquarters' International Division. Most early Roundtables included Heads of State or Heads of Government, and all were structured around a dialogue, rather than monologue format.

A second conference product focused on specific industries, including telecoms and automotive, or on functional operations such as finance or human resources.

More frequent gatherings of clients based in a single city were marketed under the "Country Managers," "Regional General Managers" or "Peer Group Forum" brands. Several competing companies focusing on these services were established by former employees, particularly in Asia.


The company's client base included most major American companies, as well as European, Japanese and Indian companies and corporate groups.

Barack Obama

United States President Barack Obama's first job after graduating from Columbia University was with the company. He held a position as a research associate in its financial services division, where he edited Financing Foreign Operations, a global reference service, and wrote for Business International Money Report, a weekly financial newsletter.


The company has been identified as cover organization for the Central Intelligence Agency, e.g. see Lobster Magazine, issue 14 in 1987. According to a lengthy article in the New York Times in 1977, the co-founder of the company told the newspaper that "Eldridge Haynes [the other founder] had provided cover for four CIA employees in various countries between 1955 and 1960".


  1. Partnering Agreements
  2. 'CIA Established Many Links To Journalists in US and Abroad', New York Times, 27.12.1977

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