When he died in 1992, Sam Walton left behind a multibillion-dollar retail empire that today comprises over 9,000 stores in 15 countries; Blumenthal chronicles Walton’s remarkable rise from humble beginnings to becoming the founder of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.
Walton’s childhood was not wholly the stuff of Horatio Alger stories. His family managed to scrape by through the worst of economic times. Young Sam earned extra money selling magazine subscriptions, delivering newspapers and raising pigeons and rabbits. Walton learned about retail by working for J.C. Penney and managing a Ben Franklin 5-and-10 before establishing his first store in 1962. By 1989, Walton had over 1,500 stores, grossing $26 billion in sales. What will most surprise readers is Walton’s lack of interest in money, which he called “just paper.” Even after becoming a billionaire, Walton maintained a frugal lifestyle. Beating the competition always mattered most to him, a goal he ruthlessly pursued. Making the life of a man who devoted nearly every moment of his adult life to expanding his company an interesting story could be tough, but Blumenthal succeeds in bringing Walton’s driven personality and obsession with winning to life. (The author addresses the mostly posthumous controversies surrounding Wal-Mart in an epilogue.)
Young people with entrepreneurial ambitions will find Walton’s life inspiring, instructive and, perhaps, cautionary. (notes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-14)