Tony Ma will bet you as much as $600,000 to train your student for college acceptance. If the student gets into their top choice school, Ma takes the cash. Rejected? He gets nothing.
The Wall Street firm that bailed out Robert Mugabe.
Following Muammar Qaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya had hundreds of billions of dollars. This is the story of how it was erased.
Previously: David Samuels on the Longform Podcast.
The CEO is 32. The CFO is 28. Their startup is the second-largest burger chain in the country.
Dov Charney’s struggle to keep control of American Apparel.
Tom Monaghan started Domino’s. Mike Ilitch started Little Caesers. Both became billionaires, both live in Detroit, both are now over 75. They’ve made very different decisions about how to spend their fortunes.
They lose millions in a Florida real estate scam.
Courtland Kelley knew there was a problem more than a decade ago. He tried to speak up. He sued. He lost.
On a recent lawsuit over Stairway to Heaven and Led Zeppelin’s deep catalog of songs that were revealed to have been written by others.
The hedge funders who tried to give away a fortune anonymously.
The story of “the biggest retail hack in U.S. history.”
Unraveling a lucrative crime ring.
Due to global warming, this island nation may cease to exist in 20 years.
Bibek Dhong traveled from Nepal to Malaysia to test cameras for the new iPhone 5. When production ended abruptly, he and his coworkers found themselves stranded for two months without money, food or passports.
How Service Corporation International corporatized death, driving growth through everything from aggresive acquisitions, volume pricing on caskets and embalming fluid, a “strong flu season,” and pre-selling over $7.5 billion worth of burials.
What it’s like to work for, compete against, and find out you’re the biological father of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. An excerpt from The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.
Oil and iron-ore baron Eike Batista’s very bad year.
How A+E’s CEO is navigating the new TV environment with hit shows like “Duck Dynasty.”
On the road with Johnson Zeng, who buys up the metal “Americans won’t or can’t be bothered to recycle.”
When there are too few jobs for an entire generation.
How a con man named James McCormick sold $38 million worth of phony bomb-detection devices to Iraqi authorities.
The story of a risky management style gone bust.
Inside the growth of intelligence contracting.
Caterpillar’s CEO made $22 million last year. Some of his employees are on food stamps.
A captured bank robber makes a remarkable claim.
“Which is the largest country in the world, economically speaking? It’s America, the United States. Do you know why? Because way back—this is history, you can look it up on the Internet—the colonization was done by men who believed in the word of God. And they were tithers. That’s why you see on the dollar bill: ‘In God we trust.”
The growth of an immersive universe that is “part game and part soap opera and part shadow economy.”
How a longtime gambling addict and a small band of his cronies manipulated both the game and betting exchanges from a tiny Berlin cafe, going as far as buying ownerships of teams in order to insure their failure.
Meet Gene Locks, the onetime Princeton quarterback suing the NFL on behalf of 4,000 former players.
How an autocratic CEO made the company billions, alienating almost everyone else in the process.
On the theft of 6 million pounds of maple syrup from Canada’s strategic reserve and the group of free market renegades who are fighting “The Maple Wars.”
Ten years ago, Jack Whittaker won the largest lotto jackpot in history. Then he lost everything.
The market for Hirst’s work is in a tailspin. Why?
Working within Andalusia’s impoverished farming communities, a ragtag pair of longtime union leaders have been leading raids on local supermarkets.
The rise and (potential) fall of the electronics superstore.
What it’s like to be Enzyte’s “Smiling Bob,” and other tales of acting as a product’s public face.
An assessment of the former Secretary of the Treasury.
Bangka Island, a frequently lethal link in a global electronics supply chain.
"Before I met Ayn Rand, I was a logical positivist, and accordingly, I didn’t believe in absolutes, moral or otherwise. If I couldn’t prove a proposition with facts and figures, it was without merit. In the midst of a conversation, she said to me, “Do I understand the thrust of your position? You are not certain you exist?” I hesitated a moment, and I said, “I can’t be sure.” And she then said to me, “And who, by chance, is answering that question?” With that little exchange, she undermined the philosophical structure I had built for myself. "
The underground routes by which drugs enter the U.S. from Mexico, and the officials who’ve found it almost impossible to curb their construction.
How the former Bush advisor is “reengineering the practice of partisan money management in hopes of drumming Barack Obama out of the White House.”
How the author became tangled up with an international con man who may or may not have murdered several people.
The education of a campaign manager.
The international battle over 17 tons of coins discovered by an American deep-sea treasure hunting company.
The story of Christopher and Jeffrey George, the twin proprietors of a pain clinic empire.
A profile of the Mexican newsweekly, a “lone voice” in reporting on the narcos.
Inside the investigation that broke the biggest case of insider trading in history.
How KFC brought fried chicken to China and Africa as U.S. sales slumped.
Why dealing with the IRS is so difficult – and the woman charged with making it easier:
[Nina] Olson noted that the IRS relied on computers to audit all but the highest-income brackets. “We’re getting to a situation where the only people who will get face-to-face audits are the 1 Percent,” she said. “For the majority of taxpayers, the IRS has become faceless, nameless, with no accountability and no liability.”
How the website mastered “Social Publishing”:
To understand some of the principles underlying BuzzFeed’s strategy, he recommends reading The Individual in a Social World, a 1977 book by Stanley Milgram, who is known, among other things, for his experiments leading to the six degrees of separation theory. “When some cute kitten video goes viral,” says [Jonah] Peretti, “you know a Stanley Milgram experiment is happening thousands of times a day.”
A profile of Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz, who wants to make his drink a lifestyle. Mateschitz’s co-founder, Chaleo Yoovidhya, died March 17.
The hunt for rare 1933 Double Eagle coins:
The U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting the nation’s currency, has been pursuing them for nearly 70 years, through 13 Administrations and 12 different directors. The investigation has spanned three continents and involved some of the most famous coin collectors in the world, a confidential informant, a playboy king, and a sting operation at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. It has inspired two novels, two nonfiction books, and a television documentary. And much of it has centered around a coin dealer, dead since 1990, whose shop is still open in South Philadelphia, run by his 82-year-old daughter.
Dotcom didn’t look like a criminal genius. With his ginger hair, chubby cheeks, and odd fashion sense—he often wore black suits and white-on-black wingtip shoes—he looked like he should be setting up a magic table.
How Kim Schmitz, the proprietor of Megaupload, made his fortune and landed in a New Zealand prison.
How the town of Moberly, population 14,000, got conned.
What happened when Pakistan shut down the vitally important Karachi to Kabul trucking line.
Before the market crashed and home prices tumbled, before federal investigators showed up and hauled away the community records, before her property managers pled guilty for conspiring to rig neighborhood elections, and before her real estate lawyer allegedly tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs and setting fire to her home, Wanda Murray thought that buying a condominium in Las Vegas was a pretty good idea.
On the American Legislative Exchange Council, a D.C. nonprofit with a library of more than 800 pieces of fill-in-the-blank legislation ready for state legislatures across the country.
The demise of America’s favorite mega-bookstore and the factors beyond the e-book boom that fueled the book retail meltdown.
On the TechCrunch founder’s venture capital fund, and a new breed of startup investor.
As Twitter-loving VC investors have become brand names themselves (Fred Wilson, Marc Andreessen, Chris Sacca), what one might call the auteur theory of venture capitalism has emerged—the idea that startup companies bear the unique creative signature of those who invested in them. To study a venture capitalist’s portfolio is to study his oeuvre.
The Green Bay Packers are a historical, cultural, and geographical anomaly, a publicly traded corporation in a league that doesn’t allow them, an immensely profitable company whose shareholders are forbidden by the corporate bylaws to receive a penny of that profit, a franchise that has flourished despite being in the smallest market in the NFL—with a population of 102,000, it would be small for a Triple A baseball franchise.
The CEO of the US’s biggest bank doesn’t have much charisma or a track record, but he’s “doing as well as any little Dutch boy can—sticking his fingers in the dike.”
On the insurer’s insurer and calculating the risk of modern catastrophe:
Reinsurers are ultimately responsible for every new thing that God can come up with. As losses grew this decade, year by year, reinsurers have been working to figure out what they can do to make the God clause smaller, to reduce their exposure. They have billions of dollars at stake. They are very good at thinking about the world to come.
If the memory of the Twin Towers now belongs to the world, the story of how they have been replaced is entirely of New York: a tale of power, capital, shifting allegiances, and hallowed ground.
How Tim Durham funded a libertine lifestyle—dozens of luxury cars, Playboy-themed parties, a plethora of failed businesses—on the backs of unwitting Ohioans, many of them Amish.
Around the world, governments and corporations are in a race for code that can protect, spy, and destroy—hacks some secretive startups are more than happy to sell.
Is the streaming Swedish music service, now making its U.S. debut, the best shot the industry has at staying profitable and relevant?
How what was once one of the most popular websites on Earth—with ambitions to redefine music, dating, and pop culture—became a graveyard of terrible design and failed corporate initiatives:
In retrospect, DeWolfe says, the imperative to monetize the site stunted its evolution: "When we did the Google deal, we basically doubled the ads on our site," making it more cluttered. The size, quality, and placement of ads became another source of tension with News Corp., according to DeWolfe and another executive. "Remember the rotten teeth ad?" DeWolfe says. "And the weight-loss ads that would show a stomach bulging over a pair of pants?"
How synthetic drugs became a booming (and mostly legal) business.
The downfall of a Goldman Sachs director:
"Now from, for the last three or four, I mean four or five years, I've given him a million bucks a year, right?" says Rajaratnam. "Yeah, yeah," says Gupta, who doesn't appear taken aback at all by Rajaratnam's next remark: "After taxes. Offshore. Cash."
On the economics of the booming Somali pirate business, which is up 177 percent over last year.
How slot machines snuck into the mall, along with money laundering, bribery, shootouts, and billions in profits.
On the unlikely survival (for the second time) of Kamaishi, Japan.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”