Henry Ford, who once said that history is bunk, is himself undergoing an historic debunking. Not Ford the individual, but Ford the apostle of the idea that companies must be vertically integrated to maximize efficiency.

The legendary automaker once made in-house virtually everything that went into the car. In the last few years, U.S. business has been moving in the opposite direction. Companies are scurrying to "disintegrate"-that is, shed their so-called noncore operations. And as they do so, they are poised to release enormous amounts of stock market value-value that a few may be nimble enough to capture for themselves.

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