SMALL FORTUNES: Two Guys in Pursuit of the American Dream by Edward Zuckerman

SMALL FORTUNES: Two Guys in Pursuit of the American Dream

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A cautionary, albeit vastly entertaining, tale of two success-minded Texans whose reach, like that of higher pro file Wall Streeters, exceeded their grasp. Journalist Zuckerman (The Day After World War III, 1984) became acquainted with his wannabe subjects during the mid-1980's on one of his periodic forays to report the northward march of killer bees (on which he's apparently the fourth estate's reigning authority). Impressed by the oddly coupled pair's entrepreneurial drive and dreams, the author has been following their careers ever since. Save for a desire to make it in business, the two youngish men (both now in their early 40s) had precious little in common: Pete Binion, a Vietnam vet and graduate of Texas A&M, was a family-oriented rancher intent on developing a new breed of beef cattle known as the Senepol--while Jim Teal, a fast-living hedonist who had made big money during his up-from-the-grill years with Wendy's, was a would-be T-shirt magnate. After promising starts, both protagonists came a cropper. Among other causes, Binion's misfortunes were attributable to a change in federal law that made tax shelters unattractive for affluent investors. Fun-loving Teal and his partner were able to secure little more than a beer budget to finance the orderly growth of a venture that became a multimillion-dollar enterprise, much less satisfy their own champagne tastes. In the meantime, the collapse of the Lone Star State's banking, energy, real estate, and allied industries proved hard luck for commercial aspirations throughout the Sunbelt. Failure to grab the brass ring cost Teal his new wife and a wealth of physical possessions; at last report, however, he was hustling about in search of new opportunities. By some measures, Binion (who lost a lot as well) fared better; with his family still behind him, he's taken a salaried job and gotten on with his life. An affecting and absorbing slice of American life that, among other morals, attests that the road to riches can be rocky indeed.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking