'The Fish That Ate the Whale,' by Rich Cohen Zemurray, then the teenage son of Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Deep South, saw opportunity in what was, until then, a relatively unknown oddity in the fruit world. Though not particularly religious, he was a key financial banker of the exodus of Jews out of Europe after World War II and the founding of the sovereign state of Israel. Part banana cowboy, part corporate raider, by any measure he lived a successful life in a colorful period of American history, the tail end of Manifest Destiny. In Honduras, he voraciously acquired thousands of acres and turned jungles into banana farms, taking advantage of cheap labor from the local residents. When Washington threatened to impose a treaty that would squeeze his profit margins, Zemurray simply put together an army of hired guns and overtook the American-supported sitting president, installing a puppet regime in his place. The whale in Cohen's tale is United Fruit, which in the early part of the 1900s dominated agriculture the way Henry Ford dominated the auto industry. By 1933, Zemurray had had enough of the absentee management of a United Fruit board of directors that seemed unfazed by a precipitous drop in stock value. Zemurray could be a powerful adversary and dangerous board opponent, but it says something about his character - and his sense of historic responsibility - that he reflexively supported the likes of Ze'ev Schind, a Zionist operative looking for ships to break the British blockade of Palestine after World War II.

  • Book Review: The Fish That Ate the Whale
    Well, not the banana itself, but the business conditions surrounding its introduction to the U.S. Rich Cohen takes us through the story in "The Fish That Ate Tthe Whale," with a particular emphasis on one incredible entrepreneur, Sam Zemurray. Bananas were ...
    09/1/2015 - 11:39 pm | View Link
  • The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King
    Rich Cohen's biography of Sam Zemurray, the legendary businessman who built the United Fruit Company into a regional king-making empire, is, to be blunt, phenomenal. To learn the story of how one man who sold bananas played a decisive role in such a world ...
    12/12/2013 - 11:19 am | View Link
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale
    In Rich Cohen’s wonderful The Fish That Ate the Whale, we are introduced to just such a vanishing corporation, United Fruit Company, and its peripatetic and hyper-focused leader, Samuel “Sam the Banana Man” Zemurray. Cohen, author of the best-selling ...
    10/18/2012 - 7:24 am | View Link
  • "The Fish That Ate the Whale" by Rich Cohen
    August 13, 2012, 7:58 AM |Jeff Glor talks to Rich Cohen about his new book, "The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King." The book chronicles the life of Samuel Zemurray, who made his fortune in the banana trade and became a ...
    08/12/2012 - 1:00 pm | View Link
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King” by Rich Cohen
    This, in a nutshell, is the premise that governs Rich Cohen’s new account of Zemurray’s life, “The Fish That Ate the Whale.” For Cohen, Zemurray’s career “is the history of the nation, the promise and the betrayal of that promise, experienced ...
    07/21/2012 - 6:27 am | View Link
  • Please, No More Bananas
    Like most other popular books on this subject, "The Fish That Ate the Whale" has scant and imprecise source notes, so the reader must take much of the story on faith. And what are we to believe? By Rich Cohen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 270 pages ...
    07/1/2012 - 12:00 pm | View Link
  • Book Review: The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King
    So why does Rich Cohen treat Zemurray like some hurdy-gurdy buckaroo in The Fish that Ate the Whale, comparing him to John Wayne on one page and John Rockafeller on the next, presenting his life as a rollicking tale of hardscrabble wherewithal in which the ...
    06/15/2012 - 5:31 am | View Link
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