Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Severing Ties When a Corporate Partnership Goes Awry

As with personal unions that dissolve due to irreconcilable differences, a permanent, official breaking off of relations is usually the only recourse when a corporate partnership with a cause or charity turns out to be less than idyllic. We're not equating the pain felt by a married couple in the throes of a divorce with that of a soured philanthropic relationship but, still, the costs can be devastating to a company if the breakup is accompanied by negative PR. Take Intel: When the software company partnered with the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child last year in a campaign to get inexpensive laptops into the hands of poor children in countries like Uruguay, Peru and Mexico, the match appeared to be troubled from the very beginning. For starters, One Laptop's XO computers, which are equipped with processors built by an Intel rival (Advanced Micro Devices), had long been the target of Intel's criticism. Joining forces, albeit for a good cause, would subject the company to risks that could potentially do serious damage to its reputation--not to mention impede efforts to compete in a region it had long hoped to develop.

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