Elbert Gary had a meteoric second career. An attorney, and for a while, a judge, until his mid-fifties, he then crossed to the steel industry. Within three years he was the first chairman of the world’s first billion-dollar corporation, US Steel, which was created out of three separate companies. Gary was a formidable networker who knew all the architects of the merger: Andrew Carnegie, the steel mogul, Charles Schwab, his corporate head, and J. P. Morgan, the financial titan. Gary’s political skills were also crucial. With perceived unfair monopolies in beef, sugar, tobacco, this was the era of trust-busting – even Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was broken up by government edict. With Gary at the helm, US Steel survived, even expanded, swallowing its main rival Tennessee Coal and Steel in 1907. But it was an unwieldy, and increasingly inefficient behemoth. Schwab quickly defected to the smaller Bethlehem Steel, which was soon out-competing its giant rivals in growth areas like skyscraper steel frames.
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