John D. Rockefeller was the single most important figure in the foundation of the oil industry. With his brother and other partners he founded Standard Oil in 1870 and built it into one of the worldâ€™s first and largest multinational corporations. With an extreme focus on effi ciency and buying or shutting down competitors, the company controlled almost 90 percent of the countryâ€™s refined oils by the 1890s. Rockefeller, as controlling partner and the largest shareholder, became a billionaire and eventually the worldâ€™s richest man. In 1911 because of anti-trust litigation, the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil must split into 38 companies. Two of those companies eventually became Exxon and Mobil, which merged in 1999.
Rockefeller, who remained a major shareholder although he had retired from running the company in 1896, turned his focus to charitable endeavors. Some argued that he used philanthropy as a moral shield from the critics of his aggressive business practices. But he was as calculating in his giving as he was in business, creating the modern systematic approach to targeted philanthropy, with foundations benefiting medicine, education and scientific research. The Rockefeller wealth, distributed as it was through a system of foundations and trusts, continues to fund family philanthropic ventures today.
Quote: "Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people."