Sunday, May 23, 2010


Behind every great fortune there is a great crime” – attributed to Honoré de Balzac

America has long been a storied place of opportunity, where the poor and downtrodden could flip off the monarchs or dictators of their homeland and get a new start on their lives. Multitudes have come and prospered, and a small number created great fortunes. Some made so much that they ran out of space in the garage for another car and decided, what the heck, why not give some money away. As easily as a dog marking the trees in the neighborhood, philanthropists could attach their names to universities, foundations and charities.

But like the rest of society, not every one of these philanthropists were honest and hardworking. Several made their money by cheating people, abusing workers, destroying those in their path and working with criminals and dictators.

So next time you watch Sesame Street or PBS with your kids, remember that it’s brought to you, in part, by the crimes against society and humanity (though it does keep the pledge drive to a minimum).

William Randolph Hearst

Business: Newspaper Publishing
Foundation/Value: The Hearst Foundations – $313.5 Million

William Randolph Hearst grew up in a moderately affluent family that made its money from gold and oil. After being expelled from Harvard for sending his professor chamber pots in the mail, Hearst’s father gave him what any spoiled brat deserved: his own business. Hearst was given control of the San Francisco Examiner and proceeded to spend $1 million a year to trick it out. He turned from normal news to stories about crime, tragic deaths and sensational stories, usually in the form of tacky, pedestrian numbered lists.

His peddling of dumb news paid off and in 1895, looking for a new challenge, decided to challenge Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the New York World. He bought the New York Morning Herald and staffed it by buying out Pulitzer’s entire Sunday edition staff. From there a press war for circulation started that would bring about some of the most sensational and low forms of journalism, provoke a war in Cuba and give Rupert Murdoch a model to build Fox News after.

william randolph hearst

Apparently the Amish were a lot more ruthless back then.

Why He’s Unethical:

The race for circulation went beyond simply reporting the most graphic news of the day. In order to best his competitors Hearst started to create the news. When tensions ran high between Cuba and Spain in 1898 over Cuba’s fight for independence, the United States sent the USS Maine to protect American interests. On February 15, 1898 the Maine sank after an explosion, killing 266 men on board. While the cause was unknown, it was blamed on a mine set by the Spanish.

Before a full inquiry could even be made, Hearst was readying his presses to report for a war. Hearst sent reporter Richard Harding Davis and Artist Frederick Remington to document atrocities. When they found no war going on, he telegrammed: “You supply the pictures, I’ll supply the war”.

The war would result in 2,466 American casualties and the introduction of the Platt Amendment , giving the United State free reign to interfere in Cuba’s national affairs. Anger at US tampering led to resentment that came to a head with Fidel Castro’s communist revolution.

The war also gave the United States control of the Philippines, resulting in the uprising of the locals Filipinos, starting the Philippine War costing 4,196 American lives.

Hearst was the model to the titular character in Citizen Kane, often voted the best film of all time. Hearst was angered by the negative portrayal and the famous line “Rosebud”, the name he gave to his mistress’ clitoris. He used his newspapers to attack the film and an associate at MGM offered to buy the film from $1 million and destroy it. Hearst managed to destroy Welles career, but Citizen Kane would go on as the film that defined public perception of Hearst.

Andrew Carnegie

Business: Steel
Foundation: Carnegie Corporation – $3.0 billion

Andrew Carnegie is a Horatio Alger story brought to life. He immigrated to America as a boy and got a job making $2.50 a week as a telegraph messenger boy at a Telegraph office. He worked his way up, landing a job in a railroad and investing money in stocks. He accumulated massive wealth and used it to start his own steel company. He used innovative steel making techniques that made more and better steel at a cheaper price, which provided a strong basis for the Industrial Revolution.

He was a largely self taught individual who benefited from access to the private libraries of elite men. He used his fortune to open public libraries across the country and to fund other charitable activities.

andrew carnegie

If you’re going to kill some workers, just remember to buy books for people.

Why He’s Unethical:

Andrew Carnegie was facing down a potential strike from his workers at his main steel making plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania. His response was to take a vacation to Scotland and leave the problem to his anti-union business partner Henry Clay Frick.

The union was demanding a pay raise in line with the company’s increase in profits. Frick responded by shutting them out. When the workers organized a strike and blocked strike breakers from getting into the factory, Frick attempted to land Pinkerton Men at the factory. A fight broke out, resulting in three dead Pinkerton men and nine dead workers.

The strike was broken when the Pennsylvania state militia was sent in to escort immigrant strike breakers into the factory. Several strikers relented and went back to work at lower wages while strike organizers were blacklisted.

J. P. Morgan

Business: Finance
Philanthropy: Various donations in his life

J.P. Morgan was one of the most powerful bankers in the late 19th and early 20th century. He grew up in a banking family and used the connections to form J.P. Morgan & Co. He built connection with other banks, creating a power house that worked to change the face of industrial America through handling mergers and development of the world’s largest companies. He used his wealth to establish libraries, hospitals and schools.

j p morgan

No relation to Sean Connery.

Why He’s Unethical:

J.P. Morgan used his connections to get himself and allies on boards of the largest companies. This led to his ability to form monopolies with Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and other robber barons of the age. He effectively shut down all competition, raised prices and controlled large segments of the economy. He also encouraged a culture of monopolies that would lead to several financial crises. By his outsized influence he could make or break an economy and the jobs and savings of millions of people.

As written by future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in his essay Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It, an attempt to corner to copper market by speculators led to Morgan’s house of cards coming down in 1907. Unlike today, when the government bails out corporations, there was no Federal Reserve and Morgan had to put up his own money and that of other large New York bankers in order to keep the economy from collapsing entirely

Henry Ford

Business: Automobiles
Foundation/Value: Ford Foundation – $11 billion

Henry Ford took automobiles from play toys of the rich to the average home and in the process restructured how Americans live and do business. His innovative use of an assembly line made cars faster, cheaper and more reliable. In turn, this created a large market of jobs in production, sales and all the other businesses catering to the driving public.

He would use some his money to try and fix the problems of the world. The Ford Foundation’s stated purpose was to promote peace, eradicate disease and better society.

henry ford

Nothing says peace like a Nazi medal.

Why He’s Unethical:

Ford’s bettering of society did not, of course, necessarily extend to his own workers. While Ford had instituted the $5 a day wage that was high for its time, other areas of work like safety and health were ignored. Workers had to work long shifts, were prohibited from speaking to one another and were given endlessly repetitive tasks that would be soulcrushing for a Chinese assembly arm robot. Production was often increased and workers that couldn’t keep up were quickly shown the door.

In 1937 his sadistic muscle Harry Bennett assaulted several men and women handing out union leaflets at a pedestrian overpass leading into one of the factories. After the Detroit News published photos that showed up worldwide, Ford’s reputation was stained and within three years he signed a contract with the UAW.

Ford was also horribly anti-Semitic. He published the Dearborn Weekly, which was filled with article condemning Jews, including the infamous and fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For his writing he was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi honor to foreigners, and given the medal on his 75th birthday.

John D. MacArthur

Business: Insurance
Foundation/Value: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – $5.2 billion

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports the media, public affairs and the arts. Well known for its support of PBS, NPR, and it’s “Genius” grants, the foundation has a long history of supporting innovative thinkers and public television programming. The foundation began thanks to insurance businessman John. D MacArthur, who willed it 92% of the over $1 billion dollar fortune he had when he died.

john d macarthur

And in the sub-basement, we keep a number of mole people!

Why He’s Unethical:

You may think of MacArthur as the enlightened businessman preaching the Gospel of Wealth. You’d be wrong.

As a person, he was a shady character. He would often deny claims, figuring if people really wanted their money they’d try again. He scammed customers and vendors from money they were owed. Even when he got good press for hiring 650 disabled workers, it turned out it was only because his basement space had a low ceiling that precluded using regular people, but worked well for dwarves.

Only his second wife (whom he left his first wife and kids for) managed to handle John. Even after he groped female employees and attempted to wrest her ownership of stock in the company, she stuck with him and was likely the real champion for creating the Foundation. MacArthur only agreed to the Foundation on the advice of a lawyer that it would help him avoid estate taxes upon his death. He told his lawyer “I’m going to do what I do best; I’m going to make (money). You guys will have to figure out after I am dead what to do with it.”

No comments:

Post a Comment




As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.

"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.

Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.

He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.

Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."

Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.

Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


Digital art selected for the Daily Inspiration #528


About Me

My photo