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Tycoons Come to a Bad End

A gathering of wealthy businessmen took place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. They were among the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world's largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world's largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President's Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.

Twenty-five years later, (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson was insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in Sing-Sing. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. Making a lot of money may be an acceptable goal, but money most assuredly does not guarantee a truly successful life.

Snopes.com has an article on this story, colorfully describing it as "a vintage piece of glurge."  The Snopes people maintain there's some truth to it, but that whoever first told the anecdote took considerable liberties with the life-stories of these men. There's no evidence that the Edgewater Hotel meeting ever took place.  Some of the men did not hold the positions indicated in 1923. And, while there's a kernel of truth to the stories of the unhappy fates that befell them, the facts have been seriously stretched in every case.

Even apart from the questions of veracity, this one's simply old.  The earliest occurrence the Snopes people found was on a printed restaurant placemat from the 1950s.