Some things are priceless
Thomas Calabrese –Stealth Wealth is a term used to describe the accumulation of wealth without drawing attention to it. This can be done in a number of ways and those who use this method of operation are extremely secretive and proficient in this lifestyle.
In 1926, John D. McCord began his meteoric climb to wealth at the age of 14, when he secured employment, as a board boy, posting stock quotes at a Boston, Massachusetts branch of Paine Webber stockbrokerage, at the rate of $5 per week. At the age of 15, he bet $5 on Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad at a bucket shop, a type of establishment that took leveraged bets on stock prices but did not buy or sell the stock.He earned $3.12 on the $5 bet. At the age 17, McCord nicknamed “The Boy Wonder”, was earning about $200 per week, trading at the bucket shops in Boston, much more than his salary at Paine Webber. He quit his job and began trading full-time. His mother, called it gambling, but McCord called it speculating.
McCord accumulated $10,000 trading profits, a 1,000 per cent net return in three years of trading, but was eventually barred by most bucket shops, because of his consistent winning. He used disguises and false names to continue his wealth accumulation. In one five-day span, McCord turned $10,000 into $50,000. His first big win came at the age of 24 when he bought stock in Union Pacific Railway and turned $10,000 into $500,000.
McCord made $1 million in a single dayby short-selling his stocks and later profited from the rebound, boosting his net worth to $3 million. He greatly profited from massive investments in cotton, corn and wheat, making $15 million. Sensing World War II was inevitable, McCord invested heavily in the military industrial complex. This included stock positions in Hudson, GM, Packard and Chrysler as well as the St. Louis munitions plant, the largest in the world. McCord also bought interest in shipping and leased the vessels to the Merchant Marine fleet.
After World War II, there was an economic boom of considerable prosperity and John D. McCord had the expertise, capital and courage to take advantage of every opportunity that was out there. The United States became a global influence in economic, political, military, cultural and technological affairs. There was a housing boom, stimulated in part by easily affordable mortgages for returning servicemen. McCord Construction built over one million houses from coast to coast. Their commercial division focused on the infrastructure and commercial buildings. One of the biggest winners of all was the petroleum industry which sold gasoline for the ever-expanding numbers of cars on the road. In the immediate years after World War II, pent up demand for new cars gave the industry a boost in profits. As terrible as war is, it has historically tended to produce new technology that can later be used for civilian gain.
As the years passed, McCord Industries continued to diversify and prosper. The wealth of the descendants of patriarch John D. McCord grew into the billions. Rockefellers, Fords, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Gettys and McCords. These people were part of the ultra-rich. The corporations take on a life of their own and the main duties of the families is trying to find ways to spend the money. Growing up in a culture where very few things are unaffordable presents a different set of challenges that most people will never face. One particularly entitled heir crashed his Bentley Flying Spur convertible, priced at $440,000. Rather than wait for the repairs to be completed, he just bought another vehicle without a second thought. If someone didn’t like the weather they boarded their private jet and went somewhere more to their liking… anywhere in the world.
There was one person who loved the summer so much that she spent half the year in her Northern Hemisphere mansion on the shores of Lake Tahoe and the other half in their Southern Hemisphere palatial estate in Bellevue Hill, the most expensive suburb in Australia.
The ultra-rich have the option of following the sun, rain, the snow and their moods and preferences. Their problem is not getting there or having first class accommodations waiting upon their arrival, it’s appreciating their good fortune and not getting bored. This type of lifestyle could be equated to going to a buffet that has all your favorite foods on it. How much could you eat before your enthusiasm began to wane and your appetite was satisfied? Eventually you would have to say, ‘that’s enough for me, I’ve had my fill.’
Logically, if you have a 100-room mansion, you can only sleep in one room at a time. Yachts, planes, what is the difference between comfort and convenience and excess and exorbitant. When asked about the massive amount of money that he was spending on his palatial estate in Cambria, California, William Randolph Hearst responded, ‘Pleasure is worth whatever you can afford to pay for it.’
Hearst’s obsession with the attainment of material possessions led him to financial disaster. He refused to take effective cost-cutting measures when his business revenue decline and chose instead to increase his expensive art purchases. Hearst eventually ended up tens of millions in debt and was forced to sell his exotic animal collection to the Los Angeles Zoo. He was also forced to borrow money from friends to pay his bills and his valuable antiques were sold off in a series of auctions. It was a sad ending, but one that could have been easily avoided.
Olivia McCord had a passion for horses, thoroughbreds in particular. She owned two sprawling ranches, one in the Santa Ynez Valley, a 5,300 acre spread with five barns, a 15,000 square foot main residence, six guest houses and 200 employees. At any given time there were several hundred horses on Rancho Del Sol. One thousand acres was designated as an equine rescue center. Her other ranch was McCord Farm, outside Lexington, Kentucky and was 1900 acres. Olivia’s horses had won some of the biggest races in the world including the Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita Handicap and Dubai World Cup at least once and some multiple times. Horseracing is not an inexpensive hobby and Olivia would easily spend between 20 and 30 million dollars a year on racing and breeding without the slightest hesitation. Sounds like a lot, unless you are worth $25 billion.
Ethan McCord owned a movie studio called EMP Productions that was involved in movies, television, music and the internet, Ethan was the ultimate powerbroker in all of them. With his vast wealth to fall back on, he could make decisions and take risks that other executives couldn’t afford to. If Ethan liked an actor or singer, he’d simply make them a success and move on to someone else. He also enjoyed attending award shows where he received acknowledgement and praise for being executive producer. There were lavish parties and Ethan McCord was always the center of attention. In a town where there was a lot of talk about things being in development, Ethan had earned a reputation for getting things done. Whenever his name was mentioned in association with a project, it immediately became credible.
Both relished the attention and privileges that their vast wealth and notoriety afforded them. This was not the case for their younger brother, Matthew McCord. He liked things simple and straightforward and the less people knew about him, the better. He was a dedicated practitioner of the fine art of ‘stealth wealth’.
Unlike his older siblings who accepted their good fortune without question, Matt was very curious about everything that the McCord Corporation was involved in. He had a keen sense about business and inherited his great-grandfather’s intuitive nature. Matt sat on several boards and his input was valued by his fellow members. He was seldom wrong in his assessment and in the area of business, he had few peers when it came to making the right decisions at the right time.
Olivia and Ethan was more than willing and happy to let Matt represent their interests, he was making them billions and who could argue with that motivation. With minor decisions, Matt proceeded ahead, but on anything major, he contacted his brother and sister to tell them in advance. Olivia usually responded with mild interest. “Whatever you think is best.” Ethan, on the other hand wanted to at least give the appearance of control. “Keep me posted during the process.”
Matt responded. “Like always.”
“I’ve got a premier coming up for one of my movies, you can be my guest. It’s going to be the major event of the season,” Ethan offered.
Matt politely declined. “You know that’s not my style, but I appreciate the offer. Send me the director’s cut and I’ll watch it at home.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being rich,” Ethan reminded his younger brother.
“I never said there was, you do things your way and I’ll do it mine. We always find a way to meet in the middle when we need to.” Matt responded.
“That we do,” Ethan said. “Talk to you soon.”
Matt answered. “I’ll look forward to it.”
It wasn’t that Matthew McCord didn’t use his wealth. During economic downturns when real estate values dropped dramatically, he had the foresight to invest heavily in single family dwellings, apartments and commercial dwellings. Many of his vast holdings were in San Diego and Orange County. Since it was never about the money, Matt put his all his holdings in a charitable trust and the profits either went for wages of employees or to purchase more property. At least $50 million was donated to local charities yearly. His personal accountant told him he had to take a salary, so Matt took $10.00 per week. Since some of his houses and apartment buildings were located in Oceanside, Matt told his property management staff to rent to military families who were stationed at Camp Pendleton whenever possible.
Matt lived in a six bedroom five bath home in an upper middle-class lifestyle in the Arrowhead community of North Oceanside. He was dedicated to good health so he had a swim spa in the backyard, infra-red sauna, massage chair, and computerized exercise equipment in one of the bedrooms. He routinely visited a Holistic Health Center in Encinitas for regular blood tests. Doctor Canelo routinely adjusted his vitamins, mineral supplement regimen to maximize their benefits. Elena, the cook, came in twice a week to prepare organic meals and placed them in the refrigerator. Matt liked the exterior of his residence to look good at all times so his gardeners came twice a week to cut grass, trim the shrubbery and plant flowers and he paid them generously for their efforts.
There were two fully restored customized automobiles in the garages, one was a metallic red 1932 Ford Coupe and the other was a sky blue 1968 Chevelle. Even though he had these possessions, Matt made sure that he didn’t stand out from his neighbors and he was discreet at all times. When his neighbors inquired about what business he was in, Matt responded, “I’m in property management and I do most of my business over the internet.”
Nobody doubted the veracity of Matt’s statement a lot of people were now working remotely. One of the homes that Matt owned was located down the street and was currently being rented by LtCol Ben Garfield. The family consisted of his wife, Barbara and their three children, James, Kathy and Emily.
Matt was cordial, but not overly friendly. He’d wave whenever he saw Colonel Garfield or Barbara, but never had a conversation with them. On that one afternoon when he saw several government vehicles parked in front of the Garfield residence, Matt had a feeling something was wrong. He was standing in his driveway when retired Marine, Bob Rolfe walked up and commented. “It’s bad news.”
Indeed it was, Colonel Garfield was an Osprey pilot and he was killed in a training mishap on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms. Matt sent flowers and a condolence card, but respected the family’s right to grieve and stayed away. Over the next couple weeks, he saw Barbara Garfield washing the cars, taking her children to school and going about her daily activities. Matt was extremely impressed by the woman’s emotional strength. When he saw Barbara pushing the trash containers to the curb, he approached her. “I wanted to offer my condolences and express my gratitude for your husband’s service and ultimate sacrifice.”
Barbara softly replied. “Thank you.”
“If there is anything I can ever do to help…I’d be honored to be of assistance.”
“I’ll be fine,” Barbara responded and walked off.
Matt wasn’t sure how things worked for a surviving spouse so he did some research and found out that Barbara Garfield would receive 365 days of her husband’s housing allowance and $130,000 in life insurance benefits for her and her children. She would not need his financial help so Matt focused on being a good neighbor without being too pushy. Most military wives are very adept at taking care of business matters, they are forced to learn that skill because of their husbands’ absences in service to our country. Colonel Garfield had 12 deployments of six months or longer during his illustrious career so his wife was an expert.
Three months passed, Matt had just finished reading a report from one of his executives about a possible purchase of an apartment complex in Vista. He went outside for a swim and after that, he sat in the massage chair to relax. The doorbell rang and Matt got up to answer it. He was surprised to see Barbara Garfield standing there with a man.
Matt responded politely, “Mrs. Garfield…is there a problem?”
“I hope that we’re not disturbing you?” Barbara said.
“Never too busy for you,” Matt smiled, “Please come in.”
Barbara introduced her companion. “This is retired Gunnery Sergeant Bill Donahue.”
The Marine extended his hand and Matt shook it and said. “Thank you for your service.”
Bill looked around and commented. “You’ve got a lot of nice equipment.”
“One of my hobbies is working out.”
“It’s a good one to have,” Bill said.
After sitting down in the living room, Barbara was the first to speak. “I’m not sure if you’re going to be offended by this, but I’ll take that chance.”
Matt encouraged her. “I’m not that thin-skinned.”
Barbara began to speak. “I’ve always had my suspicions about you. Kind of like you were trying to be less than what they are. They are little giveaways like the way you always look around while pretending not to and if to see if someone is watching you. You’re always willing to help out if asked and all kids know that whenever they need to raise money, they should come to your place first. Another thing is that you live in a big house by yourself and seldom have any company.”
“I didn’t realize that I was under surveillance,” Matt commented. “I guess my efforts to not stand out had just the opposite effect.”
Bill interjected. “Nothing gets by Barbara…she’s probably the most observant person you’ll ever meet.”
“I was in military intelligence before I met Ben. He always reminded to stay alert and vigilant especially when he was gone. It’s a habit that I’ll probably never break,” Barbara said.
“For the record, I’m just a private person and pose no risk,” Matt promised.
Bill reached into his jacket and pulled out a thick envelope and handed it to Matt, who opened it and quickly looked it over and smiled. “I see that you did your due diligence.”
Barbara summarized what was in the letter. “Matthew McCord, descendant of the legendary John D. McCord and one of heirs to the McCord Global Empire. You are currently one of the richest men in the world and living near the backgate of Camp Pendleton. Why is that?”
Matt answered with a tinge of regret. “I liked the neighborhood and the people in it. It felt right to me, I’ll be sorry to leave.”
“Why would you leave?” Barbara inquired.
“Now that my secret is out…it won’t be the same,” Matt answered.
Barbara quickly protested. “Standfast, your secret is safe with us, we’re not going to tell anybody. There’s no reason to move. You’re an important part of this neighborhood.”
“You came over to tell me that you know about me, but it doesn’t matter and nothing is going to change…I’m usually fairly good at picking up signals, but I’m at a loss this time.” Matt volunteered.
“If I was you, I’d be thinking why are they even bothering to come over in the first place? They must want something,” Barbara guessed.
“That’s kind of where my thoughts were drifting.” Matt said.
Bill smiled and said, “I guess that’s my cue to jump in.”
Barbara tapped Bill on the shoulder. “You’ve got the floor.”
Bill took a deep breath and began speaking. It was obvious that he had rehearsed what he was going to say. “I’ve been working with a group of former military personnel to help the Ukrainians. We are fighting alongside them and also helping with rescues and evacuations. We are partnering with some animal rescue organizations to provide sanctuary for displaced pets. Our men are good and honorable and doing their best under difficult circumstances.”
Matt was beginning to comprehend where this was going and decided to make this easier for the Marine who didn’t feel comfortable asking a stranger for help so he said. “Sounds like a very noble cause. Funding must be tough, things are really expensive nowadays. I might be able to be of assistance, why don’t you tell me more.”
For the next two hours, Bill outlined the mission in detail and when he was finished, he asked, “What do you think?”
“I’m in…on one condition,” Matt said.
Barbara nervously asked. “What would that be?”
“I’ll need a firsthand assessment of where the money is going before I make any firm commitments.”
Bill warned the multi-billionaire. “That means going into harm’s way.”
“Something that you’ve done on a regular basis,” Matt responded. “It’s one thing for me to thank you for your service, I should take some risks too…it’s my country too.”
“I’ll set it up.” Bill responded.
Five days later, Matt and Bill met with two leaders of the American Forces helping Ukrainian people in the Polish town of Przemysl, less than ten miles from the Ukraine border. One of the men was retired Navy Seal, Master Chief Houston Benjamin. He was a Texas native who looked like he had been chiseled out of American granite by the right hand of God. The other individual was former Marine Colonel Edson ‘Rip’ Curtis. Rip stood for Rest in Pieces. The Marines who served under Colonel Curtis in combat often said that they would follow him into the bowels of hell because they knew he would lead them back out again. The exploits of these two warriors were forever etched in the annals of American military history. There were other Americans fighting against the Russians and to a man they adhered to these two principles, ‘Defend the Defenseless’ and ‘Doing Right has no End’.
Matt was very impressed by the dedication of these selfless individuals and over the next four weeks he accompanied them on various missions in the region. He also saw the immense suffering and hardship that the Ukrainian people were experiencing and vowed to do something about it. He contributed $150 million of his own fortune and his brother and sister added $50 million each. The McCord Corporation began making routine shipments of food, water, clothing, medicine, dog food and other essentials to the region, once Matthew strongly encouraged them to do so.
Upon his return to Oceanside, Matt made a six-figure offer that included free housing to Barbara Garfield to be his executive assistant and she gratefully accepted. Matt knew she had the skills and dedication to do the job, but most important of all, he completely trusted her to never divulge his secret identity as the ‘King of Stealth Wealth’. Despite having billions, Matt knew that some things are priceless. On that short list was honor, courage and loyalty.
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org
Very nice story. One of your best.
I was a little confused in the beginning, not being a financial guy, but after that I was thoroughly entertained.
Nicely done as usual. I wonder if Olivia McCord would have been surprised by the phenomenal finish at the Kentucky Derby yesterday?!
Another good story to start off the day. Great message.
Enjoyed it, Tom shows his Writing versatility in a different type of story,
sound principles on accumulating wealth.
when oil, airline and cruise ship stocks dropped to near all-time lows due to Covid, I was confident that they would bounce back. And bought some shares of each.
Sold the oil and air at a nice profit.
I am holding to Royal Caribbean My sister lives for cruises so I confident cruises will go higher.
I think this the first story were no one got killed.
Damn Tom The stories keep getting better every week.
Very entertaining story. I liked the way it developed especially the visit to Ukraine.
A positive and educational story about a very rich person that is also a humanitarian and gives back to the community and others when in need. We see a lot of rhetoric about the rich and comments about what we think they should do with their money. Many rich people give to many worthy causes and assist the needy. It is the way to world works. by the mere fact if they own a factory or business they hire employees. This affords the employees a means to earn a living and provide for their family’s. It is the capital system that works well and provides. I wish I was rich and could be a philanthropist.
Great story Mr. Calabrese and I appreciate the Vista Press for having it printed and available for me to read.
Without generous rich people, a lot of the world would be in serious trouble. Don’t condemn someone for having wealth, its their actions that counts.
A good story…I enjoyed reading it.
A good rich person, hard to find.
Very entertaining story; too bad it isn’t true!
Tom, thanks for the uplifting story and subject matter