THE INVISIBLE BILLIONAIRE: Daniel Ludwig by Jerry Shields


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If effort alone could yield up a good biography, this would be a masterwork. Shields appears to have examined and logged every available scrap of documentary evidence bearing on Ludwig, the publicity-shy tycoon who amassed a fortune in shipping and a host of other industries. Unfortunately, while there's much intriguing material here, too often it's submerged in a welter of tortuous analysis, tedious excerpts from official records, and tangential anecdotes. During the whole of his career, he has granted the press three interviews. Born in Michigan in 1897, Ludwig (who is still alive) began building his fortune during Prohibition as a rumrunner. Later on, with help from friends in high places, he flim-flammed federal maritime authorities, acquiring enough surplus tankers on concessionary terms to profit greatly from WW II. When peace came, Ludwig was somehow able to secure still-scarce steel to build his own vessels in Japan and contend for world supremacy in the tanker trade. Once on his way, Ludwig never looked back, creating a privately held global empire that encompasses banking, casinos, construction, hotels, natural resources, real-estate developments and shipping. He has done business with such as Meyer Lansky, Howard Hughes and Anastasio Somoza and government officials on every continent. A genuine risk taker, Ludwig can take credit for several enduring innovations, among them the welded hull, the use of charter contracts as collateral, and super-tankers. Ludwig has also been both venturesome and successful in exploiting the potential of wilderness areas. Despite a long-term commitment estimated at $1 billion, however, he failed to create a self-sustaining pulp/paper complex deep in the Brazilian rain forest. At best, Shields offers only glimpses of the shadowy Ludwig and his vast holdings; the man and his motives remain well beyond the author's reach.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin