'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.

BING NEWS:
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale
    Cain, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser, and James Hadley Chase, and instead pick up Rich Cohen's vigorous and gripping The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King. This history-embedded, anecdote-rich biography of Sam Zemurray ...
    09/17/2016 - 8:59 am | View Link
  • The Birth of America’s Banana King
    This is an excerpt from Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King, out this week from FSG. Samuel Zemurray took his money and went south. Wisteria bloomed along the railroad tracks. Towns drifted by.
    06/5/2012 - 7:35 pm | View Link
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale
    Rich Cohen's brilliant historical profile "The Fish That Ate the Whale" unveils Zemurray as a hidden kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. Known as El Amigo, the Gringo, or simply Z, the Banana Man lived one of ...
    06/4/2012 - 1:00 pm | View Link
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale
    According to author Rich Cohen, a corporation “tends to have a life ... Zemurray has since fallen into irrelevance, but in The Fish That Ate the Whale, Cohen resurrects the memory of America’s Banana King in a rollicking, colorful tale that proceeds ...
    06/4/2012 - 1:00 pm | View Link
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