We recently saw the headlines in India that have focused on the dramatic demise of two ultra rich brothers, Ponty and Hardeep Chadha, who made a fortune from their liquor and real estate businesses. In a moment of anger, both the brothers died in a matter of few minutes. The unbridled greed for getting more …. and more, without scruples ostensibly led to disputes and both of them lost their lives in a mutual shootout in New Delhi.
The lesson from this incident is not dramatic. Nor anything new. Across the world, the frantic quest to accumulate wealth, the “ More More ” syndrome, is the common denominator of human behavior. Instead of living a life, rich and powerful live a shallow and incomplete life.
Let us look at one example to bring the message home.
As a case in point, in 1923, nine of the wealthiest people in the world met at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel. Their combined wealth, it was estimated, exceeded the wealth of the government of the United States at that time. These men certainly knew how to make a living and accumulate wealth. Right?
Attending the meeting were the following men:
- The president of the largest steel company,
- The president of the largest utility company,
- The president of the largest gas company,
- The president of the New York Stock Exchange,
- The president of the Bank of International Settlements,
- The greatest wheat speculator,
- The greatest bear on Wall Street,
- The head of the World’s greatest monopoly, & a member of President Harding’s cabinet.
That’s a pretty impressive line-up of people by anyone’s yardstick. Isn’t it? One would think these gentlemen would have such a lovely life that they would have enjoyed every moment of it.
Yet, 25 years later, where were those nine industrial giants?
Let’s examine what happened to them 25 years later.
- The President of the then largest steel company (Bethlehem Steel Corp), Charles M Schwab, lived on borrowed capital for five years before he died bankrupt as his stock in Bethlehem Steel Corp was virtually worthless and on the day of his death he was in debt of over $300,000
- The President of the then largest gas company, Howard Hubson, went insane.
- One of the greatest commodity traders (Wheat Speculator), Arthur Cutten, died insolvent
- The then President of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to jail. He stole funds from the New York Stock Exchange Gratuity Fund, the New York Yacht Club (where he served as the Treasurer), and $800,000 worth of bonds from his father-in-law’s estate. (link)
- The member of the US President’s Cabinet (the member of President Harding’s cabinet), Albert Fall, was pardoned from jail just to be able to go home and die in peace. His acceptance of bribes for the leases resulted in the Teapot Dome scandal. The investigation found Fall guilty of conspiracy and bribery, $385,000 having been paid to him by Edward L. Doheny. Fall was jailed for one year as a result—the first former cabinet officer sentenced to prison as a result of misconduct in office. His home was finally foreclosed! (link)
- The greatest “bear” on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore committed suicide.
- The President of the then world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Krueger, committed suicide.
- The President of the Bank of International Settlement, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.
- The president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless.
Where did they go wrong? In a nutshell, what they forgot was how to “make” life while they got busy making money.
Moral of the Story
Money in itself is not evil; it provides food for the hungry, medicine for the sick, clothes for the needy; Money is only a medium of exchange. Life, on the other hand, is much and much larger than that.
Photo Credits: Philip Taylor PT