Whose Side Are You on? An Historical Analysis of Firestone’s Interactions with Armed Groups During the First Liberian Civil War



Recent International Business (IB) scholarship assumes that armed groups’ goals are purely economic when they interact with MNCs during violent conflicts. However, armed groups’ goals can be economic and political, leading to mutually dependent rather than one-way dependency relationships with MNCs. Through an historical case study of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company’s interactions with armed groups during the first Liberian civil war, we develop theory on this underexplored topic. Our analysis reveals that Firestone attempted to hedge its bets based upon its level of dependency on each armed group. Despite their ability to punish Firestone at different points during the war, the armed groups worked with the MNC due to their needs for political legitimacy and economic capital. Furthermore, Firestone’s historical legacy in the country served as an asset for the MNC, as it increased armed groups’ willingness to negotiate with the MNC. This study contributes to the IB literature by developing a more comprehensive understanding of MNCs’ interactions with armed groups. It also extends IB scholarship invoking resource dependence theory to a situation where the dependencies of MNCs and nonstate actors should be prioritized, respectively.


Ishva Minefee, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Daniela Rivera Piedra, Georgia State University

Marcelo Bucheli, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Laszlo Tihanyi, Rice University


This seminar will take place in person in the Mandeville Building, room T3-42. Alternatively, click here or use the information below to join the seminar online.

Meeting ID: 937 5235 2167
Passcode: 096092