This week in financial history marks the debut of the "worst car ever", three teenagers with entrepreneurial drive and a meeting at the Harvard club that would shake up much of Wall Street. Let's start there. (Missed last week's article? Check out Wall Street History: Hurricanes And Honest Analysts.)
IN PICTURES: The 10 Greatest Entrepreneurs
Ivan and Marty Meet
On August 24, 1982, M&A executive Martin Siegel sat down with arbitrageur Ivan Boesky at the Harvard Club in New York City. Siegel was hoping that Boesky would have a job for him in a consulting role to give him some cash on the side to augment his salary from Kidder, Peabody & Co. Boesky didn't have a job, but he was eager to trade cash for tips. Siegel's first payment for feeding Boesky insider information was $150,000 delivered in a briefcase with a secret code.
The relationship bloomed in the go-go M&A and LBO environment of the 1980s. Although Boesky credited "hard work" for his success, he made millions off Siegel's tips – and he had other insiders filling out his network. In 1986, the scheme came crashing down and Siegel co-operated with the law. He was forced to serve two months and pay back $9 million in illegal proceeds. But, unlike Boesky, he avoided a long jail sentence. (Learn more, in Tales From Wall Street's Crypt.)
No More Foreclosures
On August 26, 1932, the government announced a temporary halt on home foreclosures on first mortgage homes during the depression. This moratorium did succeed in halting foreclosures and stopping the slide in property prices, as more and more flooded the market. However, an unintended consequence of these policies – some were carried further at the state level – was that lending slowed for new mortgages since private lenders were unable to recoup any of their capital through foreclosure and sale, and they were also not receiving payments.
Many farms were not foreclosed on, but there was also no additional loans for seed and such, leading to a slow attrition across the U.S. rather than a sharp adjustment. With the current crises, a different tactic has been used, but there are bound to be unintended consequences here as well.
The Yugo Comes, but Doesn't Go
Almost universally panned as the worst car in the world, the Yugo made its American debut on August 26, 1985. The Yugoslavian car hit the market with a price tag of $3,900 (around $8,000 today) and sold like mad for several years. Partially because of its proliferation, the Yugo's flaws quickly began to surface. The car was pushed out the market by bad performance and bad jokes – "How do you make a Yugo go faster? A tow truck." (Find out more, in Did You Buy A Lemon?)
North America's First Oil Well
On August 27, 1859, Edwin Drake struck oil at 69 feet near Titusville Pennsylvania. It was the world's first successful oil well, producing over 20 barrels of oil a day – a staggering number for the time. This was the start of the oil industry. Within a few years, hundreds of speculators were drilling wells using Drake's technology. Unfortunately for Drake, he never took a patent out for it. When the industry moved past him, Drake was left in relative obscurity, having lost what little fortune he had in speculative ventures. (Read more background info, in Peak Oil: What To Do When The Wells Run Dry.)
With a Little Help from Their Friends
On August 28, 1907, Claude Ryan and Jim Casey started the American Messenger Company with a $100 loan from his friend (over $2,000 today). Both teenagers at the time, Casey and Ryan's delivery service handled everything from notes to food. By the 1920s, they were running a fleet of brown trucks for the renamed United Parcel Service, or UPS. From $100, UPS is now worth $66 billion.
On August 28, 1965, Fred DeLuca opened his first sandwich shop. Also a teenager at the time, DeLuca's shop was the first step towards the building Subway. Like Casey and Ryan, DeLuca started the first Subway franchise with $1,000 ($7,000 today) in start-up money from a family friend, Dr. Peter Buck. By 2007, it was the world's largest sandwich chain with over 25,000 stores in 83 countries. (See if you have what it takes, in Are You An Entrepreneur?)
That's all for this week. Next week, we'll celebrate The Oracle's birthday and much more.
Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: A Diving Dow And Rotting Eggs.