John D Rock­e­feller


BBC Earth (Asia) - - History -

WEALTH: The world’s first dol­lar bil­lion­aire, his for­tune at the time of his death was es­ti­mated to be around $1.4bn, mak­ing him by far the rich­est man in the coun­try, then or since.

HOW HE MADE HIS MONEY: Oil. The son of a bigamist fa­ther and a de­vout mother, from a young age Rock­e­feller had a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion to make money. Like Carnegie, he avoided mil­i­tary ser­vice in the Civil War, go­ing into part­ner­ship to build his first oil re­fin­ery in 1863. In the 1870s he built a near-mo­nop­oly, squeez­ing out the com­pe­ti­tion and agree­ing ex­clu­sive dis­counts with rail­roads to trans­port his prod­ucts. He was a great prac­ti­tioner of ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion, bring­ing ev­ery el­e­ment of the sup­ply train, from western Penn­syl­va­nia oil drillers to dis­trib­u­tors and re­tail­ers, into his busi­ness em­pire. His Stan­dard Oil was the first ‘trust’, a new kind of vast cor­po­rate en­tity that con­tained, in this case, 41 other cor­po­ra­tions. At its height, Stan­dard Oil con­trolled 95 per cent of the oil busi­ness in the US.

HOW HE SPENT IT: Cre­at­ing foun­da­tions sup­port­ing ed­u­ca­tion and sci­ence.

LEGACY: He was an in­no­va­tor in cor­po­rate struc­ture – the great mo­nop­o­list.

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