First up I must say this is one of the best business biographies I have read, if any historical figure fully captures the duality of man it must be Andrew Carnegie. What makes him so interesting is that so much of what he did seems so contradionary. In his David Nasaws book “ANDREW CARNEGIE” this Jekyll and Hyde nature of the tycoon is fully explored. Nasaw is obviously slightly in awe of his subject, as was I after reading this book. Nasaw manages to show the greatness of the man without flinching away from his sheer ruthlessness. From a beginning mired in Scottish poverty (the most depressing kind), insider trading rail way stocks (the social media stocks of the day) to get his first pile of cash to breaking strikes without breaking a sweat, guided by Spencer’s theories of Social darwanism all the way (Fully explored in the book) Carnegie was one ruthless player. Not only was Carnegie a trend setter when it came to insider trading and destroying unions, he was the first Billionaire to redeem himself through philantrophy, setting the scene for later sainthood seeking rich guy like Buffet and Gates. In the end it all turns to custard for Carnegie but the ride is enthralling and I couldn’t put the book down.
HATE BANKERS? You soon will – The Wolf of Wall Street & Catching the Wolf of Wall Street
If you are the kind of person who hates bankers (pretty much everyone, except bankers) then you are really going to hate Jordan Belfort. That said considering that The Wolf of Wall Street was a bestseller I would say at least most people have a love hate relationship with this kind of figure. Probably along the lines hate them nicking your money but would love to, as the blurb says, party like a rock star, live like a king. And Belfort certainly did that. I for one admire a man who embraces his own nature and runs with it, damn the apologies He’s also a good example of how short of extermination / life imprisonment its difficult to hold these types down for long, From ruining companies to run away business success Belfort just keeps making money. Even Federal Charges haven’t held him down for long, after ratting all his friends and associates, he segued into making another fortune refinancing home loans helping (covered in Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison) so that people could buy that 2nd 50inch flat screen. He has now remade himself of course as a SELF IMPROVEMENT GURU! Belfort seems to have particular skill for finding the most reviled industry of the time, and thriving in them. This is probably also because that’s where the money is.
Which brings us to Central Tale of The Wolf of Wall Street the company he set up Stratton Oakmont Basically Stratton Oakmont was a pump and dump boiler room. Which is where you own a large block of shares in a company which is worthless, you hire a bunch of chaps to give the hard sell to your marks, ramp up the price, sell out, and then watch the company crater. As Belfort describes it his particular genius was working out that the rich have a lot more money the poor people, and thus it made more sense to steal their money. Boiler rooms have traditionally been pretty downmarket operations (the name comes from the fact that are often run out of boiler rooms). Belfort re branded his business, went upmarket and made piles of dosh. He then reinvested his ill gotten gains in Cocaine, Quaaludes, High End prostitutes and Helicopters. The last of which proved to be most dangerous. And in fact at the end of the day, and I think Belfort would agree the true moral of this tale of deceit and decadence, is never fly a helicopter when you are on Quaaludes.