Bernie Madoff Killed My Friend

| February 18, 2009

I do not hate, at least not easily, but I hate Bernard Madoff with every fiber of my being. Obviously, I have plenty of company in that. Anyone who lost his or her fortune in Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme no doubt shares this sentiment—the entire Palm Beach Country Club, for starters. I know I should turn the other cheek, but I can’t—sorry, Mom—because this morally bankrupt man caused my friend Thierry de la Villehuchet to commit suicide. Thierry took his life, I believe, because he felt it was the honorable thing to do since the hedge fund firm he headed lost $1.4 billion of its investors’ money by trusting Bernie Madoff.

Welcome to The Richest Man in Town

| February 17, 2009

I wanted to be rich from my earliest memory. In fact, I believe I was hardwired to see the world through the lens of affluence, even though I was growing up on a farm in Carrollton, Georgia, far from the glamour of what is usually associated with the so-called good life. Full disclosure: I was not poor by any stretch of the imagination. I have never known what it must be like to wonder where my next meal would come from or how I would make the late utility payment. Many might even say I grew up rich—but while I was privileged, certainly, it was not what I would call rich. At least, not by the definition I have come to apply to “rich” in my adult life. And certainly not in the strictest financial sense: I came from hard-working Southern stock; to me, it seemed my dad and mom never stopped working, and they made certain that my brothers and I “joined the fun.” It wasn’t always fun, but boy was it effective, and in many ways life-altering. Like my dad and mom, I love to work. Few things make me happier than ending a productive day or checking off my entire “to do” list. I thrive on that sense of accomplishment, that ineffable feeling that I have earned my keep.

Perhaps this is the reason I devoted the past few years of my life to writing The Richest Man in Town. And what a journey it has been: I have researched and interviewed the richest self-made man or woman in 100 American towns in an attempt to find out how they reached their American Dream and what we could learn from their seismic success.