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Commentary

A short history of the billionaire

Christopher Buckley May 8, 2014
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The following is part of a collection of essays in “But Enough About You.”

Cassius Binocularius Anthrax
Residence: Capri, 3 B.C.
Net Worth: 90 million aureii.  
Source of Wealth: Off-circus betting, slave trading.

Nickname “Buddy” bestowed on him by the emperor Tiberius during a three day Lupercal drinking binge.

Said to have fixed the 1 B.C. chariot race at the Circus Maximus between Ben Hur and his rival Messala. Pocketed enormous winnings after Messala (favored 50-1) was trampled under Ben Hur’s chariot.

Parlayed windfall into franchise betting operations in Parthia, Dacia, Iberia and Germania, using a highly controversial system of reporting Roman chariot race results.

Forced to shut down Germania operations after tribes torched his betting shops (with the concessionaires inside) following years of consistent losing.

Bounced back; established a slave-trading network (Jeevus Dottus Commus) that kept patrician homes from Rome to the Amalfi Coast supplied with prized Britannic butlers.

Gilead (Sam) Starbuck
Residence: Boston, 1775.
Net Worth:140,000 dollars to 160,000 dollars (silver)
Source of Wealth: Tea

In December 1773 Starbuck was purser on the New Bedford whaleship Incontinent when it put into Boston Harbor to offload. Observing a crowd of Bostonians oddly dressed as Native Americans and hurling bricks of valuable English tea into the harbor, he lowered one of Incontinent’s whaleboats and rescued some of the 45 tons of jettisoned tea.

Opened his first tea shop in Braintree several days later, serving a beverage called “Sal-Tea.” When Sal-Tea failed to catch on, he rebranded it “Patrio-Tea,” which did eventually find acceptance with Boston’s tea-starved public.

Subsequently struck a deal with the East India Company to supply (that is, smuggle) non-salty tea to Massachusetts.

His string of tea shops prospered, but scholars argue that Starbuck made a mistake calling them “Gileads” instead of some other catchier name.

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