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Three of the Most Ruthless Businessmen in History (Don’t Copy Them)

by | Sep 5, 2022 | Entrepreneurs

As a man, I can say we’re not all choir boys.

We do some bad stuff. And when it comes to business, some men can sell their souls to the devil just to prove they have the most money.

Seeing bad male actors helps you avoid becoming one or being manipulated by one.

500 dead because of one man’s idiocy

In the 1980s, during the lead up to the Seoul Olympic games, it was boom time for Korean construction companies.

One building was halfway through construction. The original plan was to make it an apartment complex. But a fiery chairman took over the project well after construction started and said “this will be a shopping mall.”

Shopping malls need escalators and the only way to fit them in was to cut away key support beams.

The construction company refused to remove the beams. They knew it was a dumbass decision. So the ruthless chairman, Lee Joon, fired them.

He demanded the thickness of floor columns be reduced to increase floor space. Fifteen tonnes of air conditioner units were placed on top of the roof, exceeding the weight limit by four times.

It only took a few short years.

The building started to show huge cracks. The cracks on the top floor got so bad that Lee Joon simply ordered merchandise to be moved to the basement instead.

Then the top floors got closed altogether. “They’re unsafe,” said management. Engineers came to the rescue. They recommended the building be closed. Lee Joon refused to listen to their advice because it would lower his revenue.

Lee and his other executives did, however, evacuate themselves from the building due to the risks.

Perhaps the most ruthless part, his daughter-in-law kept working in the building. Lee didn’t tell her a damn thing. In the afternoon on July 29th 1995 the roof started to collapse.

Lee refused to close the building even then. He wouldn’t even authorize emergency repairs.

One hour later loud sounds of cracks could be heard. Staff hit the emergency alarm and told customers to evacuate. It was too late. As the roof collapsed, the fifteen tonnes of air conditioner units crashed through all the floors of the building. The support columns quickly buckled.

20 seconds later half the building came down. Chaos everywhere.

500+ people died and another 900 got injured. The trapped survivors stuck in the rubble took days to rescue. They were traumatized for life.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

It took days of rescue efforts to find trapped survivors. To make things worse, some drowned to death due to the water used to put out the building fires.

Incompetence on every level.

The incident eventually got a formal investigation. When they interrogated Lee Jon he showed zero remorse for the dead people. He kept crapping on about how much money his firm lost.

The ruthless man did seven years in prison and then died days after his release. The silly man showed us what evil looks like and how some big businesses can become nothing more than economic extraction machines.

Some think Lee deserved his quick death. I don’t like to go that far, as I don’t wish ill on anyone. I’ll let you make up your mind.

“If my competitor were drowning, I’d walk over and put a hose right in his mouth.”

Ray Kroc said this.

People often refer to him as the founder of McDonald’s. The truth is he started as a lousy milkshake salesman. After selling eight milkshake machines to the Mcdonald’s brothers, he became interested in their humble hamburger business.

He introduced them to a new type of franchise model. He also pioneered McDonald’s actual business — real estate.

Eventually Ray bought the business off the two brothers who got $1M each after taxes. But Ray became obsessed with the first McDonald’s store.

The brothers didn’t give it to him because they wanted the employees to own it ongoing.

Ray became pissed. He set up another store close to it and forced the original store to change its name to “The Big M.” Six years later the employee-owned store shut forever because of what Ray did.

As part of the business sale, Ray supposedly shook hands on giving the brothers an ongoing 1% royalty. He never gave it to them.

Some say Ray cheated the Mcdonald’s brothers. Others say the brothers held Ray back from making the brand a success.

Either way, his famous catchphrases “Business is war” and “It’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat” show his ruthlessness.

Oh, and his unconventional policies didn’t make him a popular leader either. Everyone had to answer their own damn phone, and hiring college graduates was a no-no.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Without a doubt the most ruthless businessman you can find

Let’s finish with a bang.

John D. Rockefeller is perhaps history’s most ruthless. His father had the gorgeous job title early in his career of “snake oil salesman.” John had a bad childhood, too, thanks to the rape conviction his father got.

Image credit: Velkiira via Flickr

John eventually made a bucketload of money from his business. But he was tight as hell. He kept expense records and tracked every dollar.

The sentence that got John his ruthless title was “competition is a sin.” His Standard Oil company happily did secret railroad deals to get unfair advantages against his competition.

If oil supply was short, John’s company would buy up any free barrels to ensure his competitors got none.

He’d even lower oil prices short term to bankrupt his competitors. Bribery and coercion were his favorite things. Without John, the business world may never have come up with the phrase monopoly.

All the ruthlessness got John the proud title of “the most hated man in America.” As he got older, he tried to undo his evil ways by giving money to good causes.

Some say nothing will ever undo the evil he did.

Bottom line

Being a ruthless businessman seems cool.

You can make a lot of money and buy plenty of Lambos. But when people hate you, it’s dangerous for your mental health, and you’ll have regrets about all the evil you had to do to get rich by being ruthless.

Real wealth is how people talk about you. Ruthlessness is a poison that repels good humans from your life. Avoid.

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