Samuel Zemurray, known to friend and foe alike as Sam the Banana Man, made his first fortune in “ripes,” bananas that the big fruit traders considered too mature to reach market in time for sale. Their rule of thumb was “One freckle turning, two freckles ripe”—thus consigning tons of fruit to a great reeking pile at the edge of the wharf, where it was pushed into the sea or simply left to rot.
When Zemurray, a young Russian immigrant, saw that first sad pile of ripes—circa 1895, in the port of Mobile, Ala.—he recognized his opportunity. For a man who spent his early years on a desolate wheat farm in Bessarabia, there was obvious value in even a freckled piece of fruit. By 1903, he was a mini mogul, with $100,000 in the bank. Here’s a list of Sam’s five lessons.
1. See for yourself.
2. Don’t try to be smarter than the problem.
3. Don’t trust the experts.
4. Money can be made again, but a lost reputation is gone forever.
5. When in doubt, do something!