Western Union

The Western Union Company provides money movement and payment services worldwide. The company operates in two segments, Consumer-to-Consumer and Business Solutions. The Consumer-to-Consumer segment facilitates money transfers between two consumers, primarily through a network of third-party agents and sub-agents; and offers international cross-border transfers and intra-country transfers, as well as money transfer transactions through websites and mobile devices. The Business Solutions segment provides payment and foreign exchange solutions, primarily cross-border and cross-currency transactions for small and medium size enterprises, other organizations, and individuals; and foreign currency forward and option contracts. It also offers bill payment services that facilitates payments from consumers to businesses and other organizations, as well as offers money order and other services. The company was founded in 1851 and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.


Founding & expansion

The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company was founded in Rochester, New York by David Hoyt, Samuel L. Selden, Hiram Sibley, and others in 1851. In 1856 the company merged with its competitor the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company, controlled by John James Speed, Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith and Ezra Cornell and, at Cornell's insistence, changed its name to Western Union Telegraph Company.In 1857 Western Union participated in the 'Treaty of Six Nations', an attempt by six of the largest telegraph firms to create a system of regional telegraphy monopolies with a shared network of main lines. After the creation of the 'Six Nations' system, Western Union continued to acquire both larger & smaller telegraph companies and by 1864 had transformed from a regional monopoly into a national oligopolist with its only serious competitors being the American Telegraph Company and the United States Telegraph Company.Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph in 1861 and formed the Russian–American Telegraph Company in an attempt to link America to Europe, via Alaska, into Siberia, to Moscow – a project abandoned in 1867 following the successful laying of a transatlantic cable in 1866.

Dominance & new challengers

In 1866 Western Union acquired the American Telegraph Company & the United States Telegraph Company, its two main competitors, for a time gaining a virtual monopoly over the American telegraphy industry. The company also began to develop new telegraphy-related services beyond the transmission and delivery of telegrams, launching the first stock ticker in 1866, a standardized time service in 1870 and wire money transfer in 1871.In the 1870s the company faced increased competition from newly formed rival telegraphy conglomerate Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company and from the nascent telephony industry led by the Bell Telephone Company. Western Union instead attempted to launch a rival telephony system before settling a patent lawsuit with Bell and leaving the telephone business completely in 1879,.Financier Jay Gould orchestrated a merger of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company with Western Union in 1881, giving him a controlling share of the merged company.

Monopoly & decline of telegraphy

When the Dow Jones Railroad Average stock market index for the New York Stock Exchange was created in 1884, Western Union was one of the original eleven companies to be included. By 1900, Western Union operated a million miles of telegraph lines and two international undersea cables.AT&T gained control of Western Union in 1909, acquiring a 30% stake in the company. However in 1913 AT&T, under indictment for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, was forced to sell its shares in the company which once again became independent.

Western Union acquired its only major competitor in the American telegraphy sector Postal Telegraph, Inc. in 1945, effectively giving the company monopoly power over the industry. After 1945 the telegraphy industry began to experience a decline, with total telegraph messages almost halving from 1945 to 1960.In 1958, Western Union began offering telex services to customers in New York City. Teleprinter equipment for the telex network was originally provided by Siemens & Halske AG and later by Teletype Corporation. Direct international telex services commenced in the summer of 1960, with limited service to London and Paris.In honor of Valentine's Day 1959, Western Union introduced the Candygram, a box of chocolates accompanying a telegram that was featured in a commercial with the rotund Don Wilson.

Western Union International spin-off

In 1963, Western Union organized its international cable system properties and its right-of-way for connecting international telegraph lines into a separate company called Western Union International , which it sold that year to American Securities.

In 1967, American Securities listed WUI as a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. WUI was acquired by Xerox for $207 million in stock in 1979 and subsequently sold for $185 million in cash to MCI Communications in 1981. MCI renamed WUI to MCI International, ceasing the use of Western Union branding.


Western Union purchased the TWX system from AT&T in January 1969, the only major competitor to its own telex network.Western Union became the first American telecommunications corporation to maintain its own fleet of geosynchronous communications satellites, starting in 1974. The fleet of satellites, called Westar, carried communications within the Western Union company for telegram and mailgram message data to Western Union bureaus nationwide. It also handled traffic for its telex and TWX services. The Westar satellites' transponders were also leased by other companies for relaying video, voice, data, and facsimile transmissions.

In 1981, Western Union purchased a 50% interest in Airfone. It sold Airfone to GTE in 1986 for $39 million in cash. From 1982, as a result of financial services deregulation, Western Union began offering wire money transfer services globally.

Financial difficulties, bankruptcies & restructuring

In 1984, after years of declining profits and mounting debts, Western Union began to negotiate with its creditors regarding debt restructuring. The restructuring was completed in 1987 when investor Bennett S. LeBow acquired control of Western Union through an outside of chapter 11 process that was a complex leveraged recapitalization. The transaction was backed by a total of $900 million in high-yield bonds and preferred stock underwritten by Michael Milken's group at Drexel Burnham Lambert as part of an exchange offer. LeBow installed Robert J. Amman as President and CEO who led a complete strategic, operational and balance sheet restructuring of the company over the next six years.

Amman executed a strategy of redirecting Western Union from being an asset-based provider of communications services, with a money transfer business as a large but less important part of the business, into being a provider of consumer-based money transfer financial services. Thus, Amman ran the company as two separate companies. One business consisted of the money transfer business, which was funded and operated to take advantage of the significant growth opportunity. The second unit consisted of all the non-strategic communications assets such as the long-distance analog voice network, satellite business and undersea cable assets.

In the 3-year period through 1990 Amman was supported by Robert A. Schriesheim, also installed by LeBow, as a special advisor who oversaw the divestiture of the four non-strategic telecommunications assets for about $280 million.

The official name of the corporation was changed to New Valley Corporation in 1991, as part of the company's move to seek bankruptcy protection to eliminate the firm's overleveraged balance sheet while continuing to grow the money transfer business. The name change was used to shield the Western Union name from being dragged through the proceedings . Under the day to day leadership of Amman and the backing of LeBow, the company's value increased dramatically through its years operating under chapter 11.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Western Union's telegraphy business was sold to iTelegram.

Following various restructurings, including negotiations with Carl Icahn who became a large bond holder, New Valley Corporation was sold in a bankruptcy auction to First Financial Management Corporation in 1994 for $1.2 billion. In 1995, First Financial merged with First Data Corporation in a $6 billion transaction.

After acquiring the company, First Data Corporation made the decision to relaunch telegraphy services under the Western Union brand.

Public listing & international expansion

On January 26, 2006, First Data announced its intention to spin off Western Union into independent publicly-traded financial services company focused on money transfers through a tax-free spin-off to First Data shareholders. The spin off occurred as planned on September 29, 2006. The next day Western Union announced that it would cease offering telegram transmission and delivery.In May 2009, Western Union announced its plan to acquire Canada-based Custom House from Peter Gustavson. The deal closed in September 2009 for a purchase price of US$371 million. This acquisition led the company to be re-branded as Western Union Business Solutions. Custom House and its subsidiary XE.com were sold to Euronet Worldwide in 2015 and operate under its HiFX brand.

In January 2011, Western Union acquired Angelo Costa, a group active in money transfer and services to immigrants. Angelo Costa has a network of 7,500 points of sale throughout Europe. The agreement was signed for US$200 million.In July 2011, Western Union acquired Travelex's Global Business Payments division for £606 million.In October 2011, Western Union completed the acquisition of Finint S.r.l., one of Western Union's leading money transfer network agents in Europe, with more than 10,000 subagent locations across Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.In May 2015, rumors emerged over a proposed merger of Western Union and competitor MoneyGram, at a time when both companies’ revenue were declining. Western Union denied this was the case. In January 2017, Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial technology firm instead unsuccessfully attempted to acquire MoneyGram for $880 million, but this was blocked by the U.S. government citing national security concerns.In 2018, the company moved its headquarters from Englewood, Colorado to the Denver Tech Center. The Englewood office complex was sold in 2020 for $40 million.In November 2020, Western Union acquired 15% stake in the digital payment unit of Saudi Arabia's STC Group for $200 million.

We believe that when money moves — easily, quickly, and reliably — good things happen. A business grows. A child goes to college. Emergency aid makes it to where it’s needed. An economy prospers, an opportunity opens, a community heals, and relationships endure. Moving money for better means moving money for a better world – creating value for individuals, businesses and for society.

Western Union’s vision is to be a global leader in cross-currency, cross-border money movement, continuing to meet consumer and business needs as they develop. We're realizing this vision through our global cross-border platform supported by a multi-channel network that spans over 200 countries and territories, built on ever-evolving technology, trusted relationships with Agents and partners, and global compliance capabilities.

Key Team

Mr. Matthew Cagwin (Interim Chief Financial Officer)

Mr. Andrew Walker (Chief Operations Officer)

Mr. Mark T. Hinsey (Chief Accounting Officer & Controller)

Mr. Brad Windbigler (Sr. VP, Treasurer and Head of Payments Fin. & IR)

Mr. Benjamin Carlton Adams (Chief Legal Officer & Corp. Sec.)

Mr. Bob Rupczynski (Chief Marketing Officer)

Reverend Richard L. Williams (Chief People Officer)

Recognition and Awards
Western Union has earned a multitude of awards and recognitions over the years, including being named as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Forbes, being listed on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and earning A+ and A++ ratings from the Better Business Bureau.

Leadership team

Mr. Devin B. McGranahan (Pres, CEO & Director)

Mr. Jean Claude Farah (Pres of Global EMEA & APAC Region)

Ms. Gabriella P. Fitzgerald (Pres of North America)

Products/ Services
Financial Exchanges, Financial Services, Internet, Mobile Payments, Payments
Numbers of Employees
1,000 - 20,000
Englewood, Colorado, United States
Company Registration
SEC CIK number: 0001365135
Net Income
1B - 20B
Above - 1B
Traded as
Social Media


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