The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Seville Report Book Review
What attracted us to this book?
The Vanderbilt name holds weight in America, getting a better look into how it all started had always been an interest when time would allow. Also we believe that everyone can learn a lot from the greats that preceded us. If you are trying to do great things, why not learn from someone who has done great things?
The Misconception that Cornelius Vanderbilt built his fortune from railroads. The name is synonymous with the American railroad industry, however he was a wealthy man well before he got involved in the railroad industry. He was also a lot older than I thought when he got involved in the railroad business.
How is it related to investing and the market?
The book gives good detail on the beginnings of Wall Street. Where it all started and the names of the players involved. Also, it explains how Vanderbilt mastered the markets. If you think Jesse Livermore’s corners were impressive, Vanderbilt’s might equal that. Maybe a third of the book is about how Vanderbilt uses investments - or speculation - to build his empire and crush his rivals.
Historical Moments Discussed
The steamboat era. The Gold Rush. The Civil War. The Canal. The Postal Services going west. The miagration West. 19th Century New York City. Grand Central Station. American Railroads. Black Friday 1869.
The Art of War.
When building an empire, I can only guess that people don’t move out of your way and allow you to build it peacefully without competition and rivalry. And so was the case with Vanderbilt. He was attempting to build something great in a young America, and so were many others. However, Vanderbilt was smart and cunning. Always a step ahead of his rivals. He did lose some battles, but the ones he fought and won make the book worth the read.
Interesting Tale of the Book That Relates to The Seville Report.
In a review of a railroad, the author of the book notes that Vanderbilt didn’t make assumptions of growth. He looked at where the company was at that time and how it could become profitable if it continued doing what it was doing. Often in our review of a company this years growth, next years growth, and growth five years out are weighed to predict the company’s future profits and cash flow. Thinking like Vanderbilt, we should consider a no growth approach. A “what if this company made ‘x’ for the next 5 years,” would it still be attractive? Not to say we don’t consider the bad or the headwinds in our reviews, but like many analyst, we seek growth first.
The other thing we took away from this book was focus and specialization. When Vanderbilt was involved in the ferry business he knew everything there was to know, same goes for his steamboat and railroad businesses. It was one of the keys to beating his rivals, he knew the rules of the game better than the competition. The team at Seville Report wondered would we be better specializing in an industry or sector? It’s a debate every year, but when we look back over the portfolios and reviews, we see winners all across the board, but we also see where we could’ve established a bigger position in certain areas had we focused on a specific industry. It’s a constant debate and one that came up again after reading this book.
This book was a good read. We think anyone interested in history will like it. We think investors and traders could learn something from it; and there is a wealth of knowledge for any up and coming entrepreneurs.