A gripping story of greed, treachery and ruthless ambition.
Few people have led such an extraordinary life as Whitaker Wright. Few have died in such sensational circumstances. Beginning his career as an impoverished preacher, Wright crossed the Atlantic to prospect for gold, surviving a Native American massacre before he made his fortune. Then the bubble burst. Leaving behind a string of angry investors, he fled to England to start again. Soon he was one of the world’s richest men.
At his 10,000-acre estate in Surrey, he employed an entourage of seventy-seven staff, moved a hill that blocked his view and built an underwater glass smoking room. On his vast steam yacht, he entertained the Prince of Wales, the Kaiser and half of Britain’s aristocracy.
His downfall was as dramatic as his ascent. On the last trading day of the nineteenth century, his financial empire – which he had propped up by cooking the books – went belly up. This time, the trail of furious investors stretched all the way to the Prime Minister. With the police in hot pursuit, Wright fled to New York, but his escape was short-lived. At the end of what the press dubbed ‘the most dramatic trial of modern times’ he was sentenced to seven years in jail. Minutes later, he sprang a last dreadful surprise...
Other great swindlers have followed in Wright’s footsteps, but none have surpassed him in daring and shamelessness. Drawing on family papers and archives from around the world, this compelling account of Wright’s life reads like a thriller and offers an insight into the mind of the ultimate gambler and conman.