David Farber’s Everybody Ought to Be Rich is now one of my favorite books in the business history genre of narrative non-fiction. Who helped the DuPont family take their business public? Who introduced DuPont to Billy Durant and General Motors? Who built and found the funding for The Empire State Building? It was the $10-a-week clerk who became the first CFO of the modern business era, John Raskob.
Who is David Farber?
Before I started the CFO Bookshelf podcast, David Farber was one of the first 75 people I wanted to interview because of his book about John J. Raskob.
David is a Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor and Interim Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Kansas.
He is the author of numerous books including Sloan Rules, Crack: Rock Cocaine, Street Capitalism, and the Decade of Greed, and Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America’s First Encounter with Radical Islam.
The Story Behind the Book about Raskob
After a WSJ article about Farber’s book on Alfred Sloan, the analytical genius behind the rise of General Motors, one of the grandsons of John Jakob Raskob reached out to this gifted historian and researcher to say that he should write about the man who played a vital role in GM’s early successes.
At the beginning of our interview in the podcast, we learn that it took about five years for David to go through all of Raskob’ s papers and personal letters to start developing an outline for his manuscript.
- Why has Raskob dropped out of the historical memory of those who read and study business?
- What propelled him to celebrity status in the 1920s?
- Why do you call him the anti-Trump?
- What made him different from Alfred Sloan?
- How can we best describe the Raskob-DuPont relationship?
- What were some of the early deals that Raskob and Pierre worked on?
- How important was the buyout of certain DuPont family members prior to going public?
- How do we quantify the impact of Raskob bringing GM to DuPont as a major investment?
- What were Raskob’s greatest character traits?
- Why did Raskob get involved in politics?
- Why did Raskob want to build the tallest building in New York?
- Had they lived during the same time period, would JJR and Buffett have been good friends?
There are two other lesser-known facts regarding Raskob. He was one of the early proponents of profit-sharing, and he believed every employee, not just managers, should have a stake in the outcome by owning shares of stock.
Books Mentioned by David Farber
Historians love to read, they love to write. So I had to ask David about a couple of his favorite books he’s read recently –
Regarding history, I like reading David McCullough (Truman is my favorite), Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage is my favorite), and G.A. Henty (In Freedom’s Cause is my favorite). Accordingly, I had to ask about David’s favorite historians –
David’s Other Books
David Farber has written more than 10 books, and you can check out his Amazon author page here. Below are two titles I purchased just before our interview –
Looking for a Similar Listen to Our Interview with David Farber?
If you like the show with David Farber talking about John J. Raskob, then I highly recommend my conversation with Howard Green, the author of Railroader. Howard tells the story of Hunter Harrison who successfully turned around four ailing railroads as a CEO. He could very well be the most underrated CEO of the modern business era.