In The Big Rich, bestselling author and Vanity Fairspecial correspondent Bryan Burrough chronicles the rise and fall of one of the great economic and political powerhouses of the twentieth century-Texas oil. By weaving together the epic sagas of the industry's four greatest fortunes, Burrough has produced an enthralling tale of money, family, and power in the American century. Known in their day as the Big Four, Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson were all from modest backgrounds, and all became patriarchs of the wealthiest oil families in Texas. As a class they came to be known as the Big Rich, and together they created a new legend in America-the swaggering Texas oilman who owns private islands, sprawling ranches and perhaps a football team or two, and mingles with presidents and Hollywood stars. The truth more than lives up to the myth. Along with their peers, the Big Four shifted wealth and power in America away from the East Coast, sending three of their state's native sons to the White House and largely bankrolling the rise of modern conservatism in America.
Capitalism at its most colorful oozes across the pages of this engrossing study of independent oil men. Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (coauthor, Barbarians at the Gate) profiles the Big Four oil dynasties of H.L. Hunt, Roy Cullen, Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson, along with their cronies, rivals, families and, in Hunt's case, bigamous second and third families. The saga begins heroically in the early 20th-century oil boom, with wildcatters roaming the Texas countryside drilling one dry hole after another, scrounging money and fending off creditors until gushers of black gold redeem them. Their second acts as garish nouveaux riches with strident right-wing politics are entertaining, if less dramatic. Decline sets in as rising production costs and cheaper Middle Eastern oil erode profits, and a feckless, feuding second generation squanders family fortunes on debauchery and reckless investment-H.L.'s sons' efforts in 1970 to corner the silver market bankrupted them and almost took down Wall Street. This is a portrait of capitalism as white-knuckle risk taking, yielding fruitful discoveries for the fathers, but only sterile speculation for the sons-a story that resonates with today's economic upheaval. (Jan. 27) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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January 26, 2009
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