When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, companies rushed behind the Iron Curtain to plant their flag in Russian soil. Icons of capitalism, from Apple Inc. to McDonald’s Corp. to Adidas AG, went on to build profitable businesses in the ensuing years as consumers clamored for a slice of Western lifestyle. In just a few short days, those longstanding ties have unraveled.
After Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, a mass corporate exodus set in, starting with BP Plc and quickly gathering pace as dozens of global brands followed. The chaotic unwinding has left companies wondering whether they’ll ever return, how they’ll pay for workers and assets left behind, and whether they might recoup the value of their abandoned businesses in a country that has almost overnight become the world’s most sanctioned nation.