The Eccentric Billionaire: John D. MacArthur—Empire Builder, Reluctant Philanthropist, Relentless Adversary

Nancy Kriplen, Author
Nancy Kriplen, Author . Amacom $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8144-0889-6
Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
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Starting with a bankrupt company in the depths of the Great Depression, John D. MacArthur and his wife, Catherine, built the hugely successful Bankers Life and Casualty through innovative policy design, aggressive sales and marketing, shrewd acquisitions, unconventional management and frequent battles with regulators to become pioneers in marketing health and long-term care insurance to lower-middle-class and elderly people. Beginning in the mid-1950s the MacArthurs met equal success in real estate development. As one of the world’s first billionaires, John created the MacArthur Foundation, most famous for its “genius” awards. Journalist Kriplen’s biography overlooks the business innovations for which the MacArthurs are known to place them in the context of their personal extended families. At its best describing John’s relations and business associates, Kriplen’s volume offers deft though shallow profiles of many individuals without losing the main story. The book will be of interest to readers already familiar with the MacArthurs’ business savvy who yearn for gleanings into their personal background, and do not expect a tell-all. (Jan.)

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