OVERNIGHT SUCCESS by Vance H. Trimble

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

Federal Express and Frederick Smith, Its Renegade Creator
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A Pulitzer-winning journalist's hard-hitting take on Frederick W. Smith, the offbeat entrepreneur who launched and still runs Federal Express. While Trimble (The Astonishing Mr. Scripps, p. 105, etc.) had no cooperation from his subject or FedEx, he still manages to offer a detailed portrait of a businessman whose drive might give pause to yesteryear's robber barons. The son of a founder of a bus line that became part of the Greyhound system, Smith enjoyed a privileged boyhood in Memphis. After graduating from Yale, he earned a commission as a USMC officer and served with distinction in Vietnam; after discharge, the veteran joined his stepfather in a deficit-ridden aviation-supply venture based in Little Rock. By 1970, Smith became convinced that air-ground fleets operating within hub-and-spoke networks could profitably provide corporate America with overnight, door-to-door delivery of small packages or documents. Although the concept now seems obvious, it was a tough sell initially. At one point during the early 1970's, in fact, Smith falsified papers that enabled him to dip into the family trust for collateral to keep cash-strapped FedEx flying. Tried on criminal charges, he was acquitted about the time his fledgling firm broke into the black. Although some miscalculations (notably, the acquisition of Flying Tiger and the since-aborted introduction of ZapMail), plus stepped-up competition (from, among others, UPS), have cut into margins, the transnational company continues to prosper. Meanwhile, its founder (who's 48) looks for new worlds to conquer. In addition to logging Smith's business accomplishments, Trimble dishes out a full measure of dirt about his subject's checkered personal record. Covered, for example, are the twice-wed Smith's involvement in two fatal auto accidents and his estrangement from family members who once feared for their inheritances. A thorough evaluation of a capitalist whose often stormy career commands respect and attention. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58510-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992