The Titanic and its sister ships Olympic and Britannic were owned by the White Star Line. This company began in 1845 under the direction of John Pilkington and Henry Wilson and continued until 1934, when it merged with a rival shipping company.
The White Star Line is usually thought of in connection with the infamous 1912 Titanic sinking. The tragedy generated a lot of bad press for the company, especially president J. Bruce Ismay, who took a seat on one of Titanic's few lifeboats instead of giving it to a woman or child. Despite public outcry, the White Star Line enjoyed a reasonable degree of financial success until the start of World War I, when many of its ships were either required to serve the military or were destroyed by German U-boats. The floundering White Star Line was forced to join with another shipping company called Cunard to survive. Shortly after the merger, Cunard bought out the White Star Line's shares and effectively put the company out of business by 1950.