THE WEALTHIEST MANIN THE WORLD
John D. Rockefeller came to be the wealthiest man in the world. Nicknamed “the oil king”, he was a shrewd businessman who surpassed the milestone of creating the first monopoly in history, amassing a huge fortune which his family still administers to the present day.
John Davison Rockefeller was born in Richford (New York) in 1839. His mother Eliza, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, was a very religious woman, and devoted to her children. It is said that John inherited his mother’s determination and perseverance and applied it to business, where he had more success than anyone.
From a very early age, John began to show a keen interest in the financial world.
As a child, he painted stones and sold them to his classmates. The money he earned from this was put in a blue jar, which years later he would call “my first safe”. In this way he managed to save a small fortune of $50, which he lent shortly after to a friend of his father’s, at an interest rate of 7%.
With this simple act, Rockefeller discovered the immense possibilities of the business world and coined his first phrase: “Don’t work for money, let money work for you.” From that moment on, all his earnings were accounted for in a small notebook he called “Ledger A”. Without knowing it, he was laying the foundations of a great empire.
THE OIL BUSINESS
At the age of 16, John had already become an accountant, and worked from dawn till dusk in a grain trading company. He earned the significant figure of $600 a year, and decided to ask for a pay rise of $200. As it was not granted, he left the company and decided to set up his own business. The firm, Clark & Rockefeller, earned $4,000 in its first year and $16,000 in the second, but Rockefeller’s astute business sense and innate intelligence led him to focus on oil, understanding that it would soon become the main source of energy on the planet.
In 1862, Rockefeller invested his savings in building his first refinery in Cleveland, and soon after, he began buying up others. The American Civil War was the boost he needed in his business. The tycoon extracted the oil, refined it, and transported it. In 1870, he created Standard Oil Company and soon began to refine a quarter of the country’s oil production. He pulled off quite a coup when he bought 22 of the 25 Cleveland refineries, thanks to his competitors either selling him their refineries or partnering with him. Eight years later, he already controlled 90% of the country’s refineries. With the creation of the Standard Oil Trust, the business expanded to the point of controlling a large part of the world’s oil, which would make him the richest man on the planet.
A UNIQUE PERSONALITY
It is said that Rockefeller would read his bible every morning and night, and he was very thrifty. He married Laura Celestia Spelman, a New York teacher, with whom he had four daughters, Elizabeth, Alice, Alta and Edith, and a son, John D., who inherited his entire empire.
They lived in New York, in a luxurious nine-story building, known to be an absolutely inaccessible stronghold. Tremendously intelligent, Rockefeller was a firm believer in the need to surround oneself with the best businessmen in order to succeed.
Don’t work for money,
let money work for you
For the tycoon, that was the first step that led him to become the man with the most economic power on the planet. At the peak of his empire, the American Government determined that it was a monopoly, forcing its dissolution. Although Rockefeller appealed, buying himself some time, he was eventually forced to break up his huge business into 37 corporations, although he retained 30% of his shares, while his family took over the rest, so his fortune did not suffer.
He was just over 50 years old, and despite being the richest man in the world, he began to suffer health problems. In 1911, he resigned from the presidency of his empire and moved to his home in Florida, devoting himself to his philanthropic work.
He donated more than $550 million to charities, and left behind an important cultural legacy which included the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller University in New York, the Lincoln Center and various foundations focused on education, scientific research and medicine, in addition to the Rockefeller Center, which he did not see finished, because he died shortly before its inauguration, in 1937. He was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, his home city that witnessed the growth of his gigantic empire.