5 of the Biggest Bastards in the History of Business

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Honoré de Balzac is often misquoted as having written, "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."

That's not quite an accurate translation of what the famous French author wrote, but there's a kernel of truth in it, as evidenced by the early histories of some famous U.S. businesses. It's well known that the robber barons of the Gilded Age -- the men who built empires like U.S. Steel (X), Standard Oil and the great railroad companies -- used stock manipulation, bribes, union busting and violence to achieve their goals. For example, Jay Gould, one of the nastier tycoons, reportedly once said this about unions and the thugs he employed against them: "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

And recent decades have seen their share of outrageous malefactors, too: Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Dennis Kozlowski spring to mind. But the five subjects we've picked have earned their places in business history with successful enterprises and classic brands -- which is why the tales of their unsavory behavior may surprise you.

To be fair, most of these tycoons and companies had their softer sides, too -- donating huge sums to charity in their later years, or treating employees with paternalistic kindness. It's the contrasts that make them such fascinating bastards.


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lamsantosantos

Mitt Romney's Bain Cap just bought TOYS R US,the Times Sqaure Store in NYC is shutting down!

March 21 2015 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
trewliberal

How many times will DF regurgitate this article.

In the tagline, the article is dated June 13, 2014, but updated March 10, 2015.

The initial responses in the comment section were all consistent with the June 13 original date. But then host of other comments from August to December, 2014. Now it's on the DF homepage over a week after it was supposedly updated.

Things must be going poorly at DF.

March 18 2015 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dzizwheel

Great article. This should be the standard on Daily Finance instead of the likes of "How to Pay Less [fewer] taxes and retreads of lifestyle spending puff.

NCR [National Cash Register] builds junk. I deal with it on a daily basis. It's still a rotten to the core company.

March 17 2015 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jktejas

Frankly, I don't have a problem with Coca-Cola protecting its image and trademark. Even today, upshot companies will try to plagiarize all of or some part of a well known trademark or even a patent. Asian companies are notorious for doing this. I have scant sympathy with any company or person who tries to run with someone else's idea and then screams "greed" at the original when they are stopped. Plagiarism on any level cuts into the original's profits as well as compromises the image and quality of the product. In a socialist country someone's good idea is confiscated by the state.

December 31 2014 at 12:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bzzzbayte

PULEEZE AMERICA NOT ANOTHER BUSH FAMILY MEMBER TO BE IN THE RUNNING FOR OUR NEXT PRESIDENT. 2 BUSHES FOR PRESIDENT WAS 2 TOO MANY.

December 20 2014 at 10:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bzzzbayte

WEHAVE A NEW STORE IN OUR AREA. ITS COSTCO. WOW WHAT A GREAT STORE WE LOVE IT.

December 20 2014 at 10:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bzzzbayte

HI FOLKS

December 20 2014 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drmike15

In other words: Capitalism - failing the world since 1700.

December 15 2014 at 3:08 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
rogersharyn

The Kennedy family used illegal booze imports during prohibition, bribes, dirty tricks, spying, stock manipulation to get his boys the money to run the country. Both sides have their bastards.

October 15 2014 at 11:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ronstriathlon

The Koch family financed the John Birch society anti antisemitism anti black anti anything good for the middle class.

October 12 2014 at 10:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply