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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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.

Saturday 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.

Saturday at 10:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bzzzbayte

HI FOLKS

Saturday 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 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 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 rate up rate down Reply
nxston08

Weak, biased, bogus list. Where's Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie , and all the other robber barons?

October 06 2014 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

I've given away more than any of them. Sure I kept the mineral rights to the 400 billion worth of oil, and the 200 billion worth of inventions I own.

August 01 2014 at 7:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
phareodus

Obama Job creation all part time no opportunity entities. Poor Leader, He needs to stay on the golf course...

June 30 2014 at 4:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to phareodus's comment
rostra

Has zip to do with Obama, it's executive pay. Average CEO pay 270 millon yearly, 331 times the average employee, versus 22 times when Reagan took office. Take away 200 million from one CEO, you can hire 4,000 people at $50,000 yearly.

November 26 2014 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to rostra's comment
forests100

Frankly, I prefer Obama as president' to the untold numbers of crooks that have 'Served us' in
both houses, for their own personal greed and that of their Lobbyists, who earn their companies billions on government orders. Give me an honest crook to a crooked one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 16 2014 at 6:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to forests100's comment
mlm1997

you are a typical azzhole with no idea of how obama abolla has done to this country, seems like a moslem state he ignores our constitution on a regular basis hum wonder why

Sunday at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply