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The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived summary

Ralph Watson McElvenny Marc Wortman

Tom Watson Jr. and the Epic Story of How IBM Created the Digital Age

4.4 (17 ratings)
16 mins

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The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived is a fascinating exploration of the life and achievements of a true business magnate. With compelling storytelling, this book sheds light on the exceptional entrepreneurial journey and undeniable influence of this remarkable individual.

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    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived
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    The rebel

    Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s early life was marked by turbulence and rebellion, setting the stage for his unexpected transformation into a corporate titan. 

    Born in 1914, he was an angry child and adults called him “Terrible Tommy.” He rebelled against school from the get-go, flunking out of three boarding schools and barely graduating from a fourth. His rage was directed at his emotionally distant, cruel, and occasionally indulgent father. Thomas J. Watson Sr., his son later recalled, was “like a blanket” – he smothered everything and everyone. As much as he hated his father, though, Watson Jr. still craved his approval. 

    Watson Jr. was a rebellious teen. He stole, set fires, and shot at animals in a swamp near the family home in New Jersey. But for all his resistance to his father, he was deeply entrenched in the world of the company Watson Sr. had built: IBM. Often, the boy was forced to don a jacket and tie and accompany his father to one of the company’s factories, where dutiful employees lined up to applaud the youngster who would one day succeed their boss. 

    There was nothing the younger Watson dreaded more than that day. As he entered his late teens, he used the lavish allowance his father had given him – some $7,000 a month in today’s money – to pursue a life of thoughtless hedonism. He raced sports cars, sailed boats, chased pretty girls, and continued to underperform academically.

    His father, though, pulled some strings, so Watson was admitted to Brown University despite his lousy grades. When he graduated with a business degree in 1937, the inevitable loomed: he’d have to join the family business. He did, but he found a new way to defy his father – or so he thought. In 1939, Watson was offered a job selling pavilion space at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Watson happily accepted – here was his chance to travel the world and dodge the IBM bullet. After landing in Paris, however, Watson learned that his father had orchestrated the entire arrangement, including paying his salary. It was a brutal blow to his pride.

    That blow had its intended effect: defeated and dejected, Watson rejoined IBM as a sales trainee. His father, who was used to getting his way, was satisfied. Neither could have predicted what happened next. Within a year, the younger Watson had climbed from vice president to executive vice president; by 1952, aged 38, he was president of IBM. 

    He’d always hated the family business, but it turned out he was every bit as shrewd a businessman as his father. 

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    What is The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived about?

    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived (2023) narrates the remarkable journey of Thomas Watson Jr., the visionary leader of IBM who shook up the worlds of technology and business in the mid-twentieth century. Delving into his decision to develop the IBM System 360, a pioneering mainframe computer, it shows us how Watson’s IBM laid the foundations for today’s digital age. But this book isn’t only a study of business strategy – it’s also a fascinating portrait of a complex man and his equally complex relationship with his domineering father.

    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived Review

    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived (2021) is a fascinating exploration of the life and legacy of a remarkable entrepreneur. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Discover the pioneering strategies this capitalist employed to build an empire, offering valuable insights for aspiring business leaders.
    • Through engaging storytelling and meticulous research, the authors provide a comprehensive account of this extraordinary individual's journey.
    • Uncover the untold stories and lesser-known aspects of this capitalist's life, revealing the complexities and human side behind the empire.

    Who should read The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived?

    • Fans of business history and corporate leadership stories
    • Admirers of IBM and tech industry evolution
    • Readers interested in personal transformation and family dynamics

    About the Author

    Ralph Watson McElvenny is the eldest grandson of Thomas J. Watson Jr. With a background in investment and as a host of the book review program Intelligent Talk, McElvenny combines personal insight and professional experience in his writing.

    Marc Wortman is an acclaimed writer with several best-sellers to his name, including Admiral Hyman Rickover: Engineer of Power and 1941: Fighting the Shadow War. His work The Millionaires' Unit was adapted into an award-winning documentary.

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    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived?

    The main message of The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived is about the remarkable life and achievements of Ralph Watson McElvenny, a true capitalist pioneer.

    How long does it take to read The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived?

    The reading time for The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived is worth reading because it provides a fascinating insight into the life of a remarkable capitalist and the impact he had on the business world.

    Who is the author of The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived?

    The authors of The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived are Ralph Watson McElvenny and Marc Wortman.

    What to read after The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived?

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