John D Rockefeller
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.