Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Match King

Consider the case of Ivar Kreuger, born 1880, died 1932. He was a Swedish entrepreneur who, by the end of his career, controlled two thirds of the world's match production, thus earning him the sobriquet "Match King". His financial empire, described by some as a Ponzi scheme, collapsed during the Great Depression, just as he was trying to further his reach by dominating the European timber industry and form a cellulose cartel.

According to Wikipedia:

He had a large private library in both his apartments in Stockholm and New York and quite a large art collection. The paintings were sold at different auctions that were held in September 1932, as all of Kreuger's private assets were incorporated into the bankruptcy. The collection in Stockholm comprised 88 original paintings, among them 19 by Anders Zorn and a great number by old masters from the Netherlands. The New York collection comprised original paintings by Rembrandt and Anthony van Dyck.

Kreuger became the major shareholder when the Swedish film company AB Svensk Filmindustri (SF) was founded in 1919 and because of that, sometimes met celebrities from the film industry. In June 1924, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were invited by SF to Stockholm and were guided around the Stockholm archipelago in Kreuger's motor yacht Loris. A 5 minute film sequence of this occasion is stored in SF's film archive. Pickford, Fairbanks, Kreuger, Charles Magnusson (the manager for SF), Greta Garbo and various SF employees appear in the film.

Faced with ruin after the Depression, he committed suicide by shooting himself in March 1932. Or so some say.

In 1966 This brother Torsten published Sanningen om Ivar Kreuger (published in America as Ivar Kreuger: The Truth at Last in 1965) claiming that Ivar Kreuger had been murdered. In subsequent years, more and more researchers have supported Torsten findings.

Ayn Rand wrote a play inspired by Kreuger's life and death, entitled Night of January 16th, which was a surprise hit on Broadway in 1935.

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