Should We Hate the Rich?

| March 30, 2009

Yes, we should hate the Ponzi-scheming, bonus-binging, financial-engineering, value-destroying, tax-evading rich. The Madoffs, Stanfords, Kosloskis, Ebberses and Skillings of the world, who created their wealth and all-too-lavish lifestyles by perpetrating fraud and stealing from others rightfully should be detested. We should hate the Wall Street bonus-grabbers, and we should question the shadowy world of huge hedge funds and private equity wealth. But we should not tar all the rich with the same brush.

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.