Standard Oil: The Different Fates Of The Three Rockefeller Brothers

standardoilsWhen I read the biographies of America’s most famous self-made men and titans of industry, there is one character trait that seems to always be a common denominator that they all share: an unrelenting focus to make something great, and from there, an ability to monetize that passion into obscene wealth. John Rockefeller was no exception. When asked by a journalist to articulate the purpose of his life, Rockefeller answered, “God put me here to make money.”

When he created the Standard Oil trust at just thirty-one years of age, he had one mission regarding the fragmented oil industry in the United States: combine everything under the Standard Oil umbrella. To accomplish this goal, Rockefeller did one of two things: he either gobbled up his competitors in exchange for some freshly issued Standard Oil stock, or he would be willing to sustain a temporary loss to himself to drive his competitors out of business. What Rockefeller would do is this: he would set up a profit sharing arrangement that would allow him to ship his oil for only a dime, and he would give the families of the freight operators 100 lot blocks of Standard Oil stocks. The other competitors would have to pay $0.35-$0.50 to ship their freight, and with ease, Rockefeller was able to use this cost differential to drive his competitors to the brink of bankruptcy (although they would usually sell out to Rockefeller before reaching that point).

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