American Entrepreneurs

A&E Premiered Jan 01, 2009 Unknown


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Episode Guide


  • Season 1
    • Sam Walton: Bargain Billionaire
      In thirty short years, Sam Walton went from dime store merchant to the richest man in America. At one time he was richer than Bill Gates, richer than Warren Buffet. Now the Walton family fortune is second only to Bill Gates' at $27.6 billion. When he died in 1992, the founder of the discount giant Wal-Mart had socked away $23 billion - by selling toothpaste and lawnmowers at prices lower than anyone else's. And he did it while Kmart and Sears weren't paying attention to him. By the time the retail giants realized Sam Walton was a problem, there was nothing they could do to stop him. Part Billy Graham, and part P.T. Barnum, Sam Walton was a very persuasive individual. He was single-minded in his determination to make Wal-Mart into the biggest retailer in the world. And he succeeded handsomely. A Depression baby who grew up in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, Sam Walton knew how to help them stretch one. The story of Sam Walton is the classic tale of entrepreneurship in America.moreless
    • Jeff Bezos: Boy Billionaire
      Back in 1994, when few people had even heard of the Internet, Jeff Bezos was starting and, in the process, pioneered a whole new way of doing business. At age 36, Bezos is already a billionaire several times over, as well as TIME's Person of the Year for 1999. Bezos was an exceptionally bright child, winning prizes at science fairs, tinkering with computers and earning straight A's. After graduating from Princeton, he rose through the ranks at several prestigious Wall Street firms. His job at one of these firms was to develop ways of doing business through the Internet, most specifically how to make money. While doing this research, he discovered that the Internet was growing at a rate of 2,300% a year. Jeff quickly realized that he could be a part of this phenomenal growth, and that books - extensively catalogued and easily shipped -- would be the perfect commodity. He quit his high-paying job, packed his bags, and headed West to Seattle, a city already proven to be technology-friendly. With start-up money borrowed from his parents, Jeff -- along with his wife and a few other key employees -- got to work in the garage of their rented house. They launched a year later, and soon orders flooded in from all over the world. Now is the world's biggest bookstore, with over 7,000 employees around the world Though Bezos started with selling books, he quickly branched into other items...offering everything from videos and DVDs to kitchen and garden supplies to big-ticket items such as cars. Bezos himself has bought a skeleton of an ice age bear off of one of Amazon's auction sites, which now sits in the company's headquarters.moreless
    • Famous Wally Amos: Cookie King
      For twenty-five years, Wally Amos, better known as "Famous Amos," has been renowned primarily for his chocolate chip cookies. But Amos has lived many lives, and in this revealing hour, Biography examines his story, which is far more complex than the public knows. Born in Tallahassee, FL, Amos rose to become the first black talent agent at the William Morris Agency. He worked for thirteen years in show business, representing the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and the Supremes. Then, in 1975, Amos hatched a plan to open the world's first freestanding chocolate chip cookie store. The way Wally saw it, the cookie was his client-and he took his new charge to the top of the market. Amos achieved great success with his cookies, but floundered when it came to running the business. He lost his company and by the early 1990s, Amos was broke. Wally also had difficulties in his personal life. His first two marriages ended in divorce and he had strained relationships with his three sons. As he grew older, Wally Amos took a look at his mistakes and worked hard to correct them. He has been married to his third wife, Christine, for twenty-one years and the couple has a teenage daughter. Wally has also rebuilt his relationships with his three sons from two previous marriages. Wally has even rekindled his relationship with Famous Amos, the company that he created. Keebler Company bought the business in 1998, and asked Amos to resume his role as the cookie's promoter. And Wally isn't only a cookie man. He now owns a fat-free muffin company called Uncle Wally's. Today, he's working more than ever - promoting Famous Amos and Uncle Wally's or donating his time to the many charities he supports. When he's not on the road, Wally's at home with Christine or spending time with his four children.moreless
    • Milton Hershey: Chocolate King
      The story of Milton Hershey and his empire built on chocolate is in many ways the most fascinating of the late 18th Century business dynasty sagas. The years of his life, 1857 to 1945, overlapped the careers of industrialists like John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie, the ruthless, swash-buckling robber barons. Like them, Hershey came out of uneducated poverty, failing many times before he built a dynasty that had his name spoken throughout the world by billions. But there, the similarity ends shockingly. Milton Hershey was the very antithesis of a robber baron. While his fellow industrialists were laying a whole working class and financial system to waste with their rapacious commercial advance, Hershey determined against all odds to create his own Shangri-La, a chocolate kingdom where everyone prospered and the ruler and the ruled lived in peace and harmony. Incredibly, he succeeded.moreless
    • J.P. Morgan: Emperor of Wall Street
      John Pierpont Morgan was a man with an aptitude for acquiring art and making money. He was a man who single-handedly saved the United States from bankruptcy on two occasions, but was often accused of being a monopolist. He held as much power as the president and certainly more power on Wall Street, for Wall Street was his empire. "J. Pierpont Morgan: Emperor of Wall Street" details the amazing story of his life. J. Pierpont Morgan was born into a well-to-do family in 1837. At 20 years of age, Pierpont got a job as a clerk in a Wall Street bank. It provided an excellent opportunity for him to make business contacts and rub shoulders with the elite. Morgan's outgoing, confident personality won him friends easily. He was often invited to social events of prominent families. At one such event he met and fell in love with Amelia Sturges. They were later married. He was quickly promoted at the bank and gained a reputation for being a deal maker. He decided to start his own business. Tragically, in 1861 Amelia was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Morgan distracted himself with business affairs. While mourning the death of his wife, he met Fanny Tracy. After a year of courtship they were married. Morgan's business grew as did his reputation for being a deal maker. He was asked to mediate an argument between the two largest railroads in America. The railroads wasted money and resources laying track side by side. The competition all but devastated both companies. On the brink of collapse, Morgan stepped in and ordered a meeting between the railroad heads on his yacht. They sailed up and down the Hudson River, but he would not let the two representitives off the boat until they reached an agreement. Finally, when it was apparent that Morgan would demand an agreement by any means, a compromise was reached. His extreme tactics worked and the companies were saved. Morgan demonstrated his life-long determination to have things his way.moreless
    • The Google Boys
      The Google Boys
      Episode 4
      Chronicles the amazing careers of the "Google Boys"--Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who met at Stanford University's PhD computer science program and began Google with credit cards and help from one savvy investor in 1988. Google is now the world's top search engine, operating in 97 languages.
    • Donald Trump: Master of the Deal
      As a child, Donald Trump's parents sent him to military school because he was considered to be "a bit out of control." He ended up becoming a star cadet at the New York Military Academy and then went on to the Wharton School of Finance in Philadelphia. He was well on his way to becoming one of the most well-known business tycoons in the country. Trump started his ascent to the top by aquiring and then renovating an old, failing New York hotel and transforming it into a modern, glass-covered, gleaming structure. The years 1983-1990 are successful ones for Trump; he buys and builds, wheels and deals, and runs a profitable casino in Atlantic City. The name Trump is emblazoned all over the place; and as far as the banks are concerned the name Trump guarantees success and pots of gold for everybody. He and his wife, Ivana, have three children and a house in Connecticut. Trump buys the Plaza Hotel in New York City and in 1988 Ivana becomes its director. But all this good fortune was not to last. When the U.S. economy slipped into a serious decline in the early 1990s, Trump's empire took a serious hit. His lavish casino, The Taj Mahal filed for bankrupcy in November of 1990. His creditors start calling in his debts. At the same time, his rumored affair with Marla Maples hits the press. Ivana is devastated and sues for half his estate. Within a year a divorce settlement was finalized. However, Donald Trump was not to be kept down for long. He married Marla Maples, who had already given birth to their daughter, Tiffany. He even appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial with his ex-wife Ivana. He sold his properties, did what his financial advisors told him to do. His business is expanding to international markets now. He is still a major force in Atlantic City. By 1995, he was back and in fullswing; even voted one of the world's wealthiest men by FORBES, the same magazine that helped bring his empire down.moreless
    • Bill Gates: Sultan of Software
      By the age of 42, Bill Gates was one of titans of American business. In 1998, his company Microsoft controlled 95% of the world's personal computer operating systems. We look at his extraordinary life--from child prodigy to Harvard dropout to billionaire--including his marriage, fatherhood, and legal problems.
    • Ben & Jerry
      Ben & Jerry
      Episode 1
      Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have helped to revolutionize the business world. Known for the ice cream company they started in Burlington, Vermont that grew into a corporate behemoth, Ben and Jerry's names have become synonymous with socially responsible business. They have proven that business and social activism aren't mutually exclusive. And they are out to spread the message. It all began in 1978 when the childhood friends decided to go into business together. Armed with a $5 ice cream making degree from Penn State and $8000, they opened Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream in a renovated gas station in downtown Burlington. As children of the sixties, they vowed their company would not exploit the community, its employees or the environment. Ben and Jerry wanted their company to be profitable and socially responsible. Today, Ben and Jerry's Homemade Inc. is a multi-million dollar company and its products are sold in scoop shops and grocery stores around the world. Ben and Jerry's also gives a guaranteed minimum of $1.1 million to good causes each year. Ben and Jerry's is proof that that a company can earn healthy profits as well as earn the respect of their customers.moreless