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Our History

Almost two centuries of helping companies improve business performance

Today, Dun & Bradstreet is a privately-held company with a mission to help companies leverage data and insights to accelerate revenue, lower cost, manage risk and transform for greater competitiveness. 

A Look Back to Our Start

To help American merchants in their decision-making, an enterprising businessman named Lewis Tappan began, in 1841, to establish a network of correspondents that would function as a source of reliable, consistent and objective credit information. His Mercantile Agency, located in New York City, was one of the first organizations formed for the sole purpose of providing business information to customers.

Benjamin Douglass enters the business. To foster expansion, in 1849 Tappan turned the Agency over to Benjamin Douglass, a former clerk. Douglass capitalized on the improved transportation and communication of the time by expanding his network of offices, essentially providing the Agency with both new customers and superb information.

The credit reporter — a new profession (for future Presidents). Shortly after he joined the agency, Benjamin Douglass began establishing local offices and hiring full-time employees who became experienced, skilled reporters and interpreters of credit information. Working as a credit reporter was a respected position that provided strong training in sound business practices. Among the reporters who went on to establish names for themselves were four U.S. presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William McKinley.

A strong competitor – and a new name. In 1849, the rival John M. Bradstreet Company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years later, the Bradstreet organization popularized the use of credit ratings with publication of the first book of commercial ratings. The rivalry between The John M. Bradstreet Company and Douglass' agency intensified as the U.S. entered the 20th century. Fundamentally, this had lasting effects on the fate of the two organizations.

In 1859, Douglass turned over the Agency to his brother-in-law, Robert Graham Dun. Under the new name, R.G. Dun & Company, Dun continued Douglass' relentless expansion. During the next 40 years, Dun led the Agency all over the United States and across international boundaries, carrying Lewis Tappan's vision into the next century.

A Historic Merger

As America entered the 1930's, the effects of rivalry and economic depression on both R.G. Dun and The Bradstreet Companies could no longer be ignored. In 1933, the arch competitors merged to form Dun & Bradstreet. The merger was engineered by Dun's CEO Arthur Whiteside. Using his first-rate diplomatic skills, Whiteside was able to broker a deal with the company's long-lasting and foremost competitor. Whereas previously both companies sold "products," Whiteside increasingly emphasized "service." With great leadership, he led Dun & Bradstreet out of the depression and into the Information Age.

Success through the 20th Century

The rapid development of computing and communications technology in the post-war era was central to the growth of Dun & Bradstreet. Increases in the speed and volume of cross-border communications influenced our evolution from a provider of credit reports to a leader in providing not only commercial data and insights but also a range of solutions that leverage those data and insights to address various business needs. Our customer base grew in terms of number of customers, industries and geographies covered.  

In 1963, the introduction of the Data Universal Numbering System – Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number – to identify businesses numerically for data-processing purposes helped bring business information into the computer age. This unique business identification system proved so useful that today the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number has become a standard business identifier for 240 commercial, educational and government entities around the world.  

Along the way, data-collection operations advanced in step with technology advancements, our Worldwide Network of global data partners was formed and our Global Trade Program began. These advancements provided the ability to: link and analyze categories of information in entirely new ways; gain deeper insights into company viability; and deliver global information to customers faster and more economically.

Advancements in a New Millennium

Since the turn of another century, Dun & Bradstreet continues to advance the way it brings value to customers. Innovative ways to gain company insights continued to be developed. Specifically, with regards to insights into smaller businesses, we joined the Small Business Financial Exchange and also started our own initiative – Small Business Risk Insight. Customers served grew from mainly a credit focus to more broadly across the Finance organization, into Marketing and Sales, Procurement and Compliance. Acquisitions such as Hoovers, NetProspex, Avention, and others helped fuel the broadening of our portfolio.

More recently, the Dun & Bradstreet Data Cloud and Live Business Identity were introduced. Global coverage continues to grow, and new data types and analytics are continually added to the Data Cloud.  

Today, the Dun & Bradstreet Data Cloud holds over 300 million records, representing companies that make up the vast majority of the world’s GDP – meaning the companies with which our customers most likely do business. Over 120 million companies with hierarchical connections to other companies have been identified, enabling customers to identify areas of risk and areas of opportunity. A wide range of analytical scores and predictors are available – along with the ability to customize. Risk-based and revenue-based scores give insights into fraud potential, supplier viability, propensity to buy, and more.  All this undergoing strict governance. And we continue to innovate around new ways to gain company insight.  

Both the value Dun & Bradstreet delivers to our customers and the world-class strength of our data and insights attracted the interest of an investor group led by CC Capital, Cannae Holdings, Bilcar, LLC, Black Knight, Inc., and funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P., who acquired Dun & Bradstreet  in February 2019.  

 

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