'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:
  • February Book Club: "The Fish that Ate the Whale" by Rich Cohen
    Rich Cohen's brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden power broker, driven by an indomitable will to succeed.
    02/25/2017 - 11:00 am | View Link
  • ‘The Fish That Ate the Whale,’ by Rich Cohen
    Amid the vast outpouring of literature about America’s banana empire in the Caribbean, no one seems to have written a full-fledged biography of the remarkable Samuel Zemurray, who guided the United Fruit Company through perilous times. Rich Cohen has ...
    08/24/2014 - 11:05 am | 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 power broker, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. “This biography of the complex and often contradictory figure of Zemurray is Cohen's most engaging ...
    06/3/2013 - 1:00 pm | 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 ...
    10/17/2012 - 3:11 pm | View Link
  • "The Fish That Ate the Whale" by Rich Cohen
    Jeff Glor talks to Rich Cohen about "The Fish That Ate the Whale." Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book? Rich Cohen: I was a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, where the President lives in the grand mansion that had once been the ...
    08/13/2012 - 4:04 am | View Link
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