Review of “King Larry: The Life and Ruins of a Billionaire Genius,” by James D. Scurlock

What should we think of Larry Hilbloom?

There are four ways of thinking about the man. The first is as a business leader. Larry is Steve Jobs, if Steve was into Ayn Rand and amphetamines, instead of Buddhism and LSD. The second is as a philanthropist. The foundations that he deeded his entire state to help students and researchers fight diseases. The third is as an escapist. The beautiful women and island paradises he inhabited are the stuff of legend. And the fourth is as a coward. That is the worst aspect of him.

King-Larry-jacket

Larry Hilbloom, perhaps more than any other single man, broke the Postal Service monopoly. Four years before Federal Express, DHL expanded from a curious service to an international business that became critical to the banking and energy sectors. Those who have read other book about the importance of transportation infrastructure — especially Nature’s Metropolis and The Box — will immediately catch the significance of the annihilation of space by time that Larry wrought.

dhl-plane-fleet-i0

The foundations become an adventure of their own. Indeed, the movie Billionaire [Amazon, Netflix] is focused primarily on the nightmarish estate lawsuits that posed Larry’s many children against both each other and the foundations he had set up. Both the Lary H. Hillblom Foundation and the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center were bequeathed by him to future generations.

larry_hilbloom_irc_md

The escapism of Larry Hillblom is the stuff of adventures, both on screen and in print. King Larry clearly owes a lot to the film His Majesty O’Keefe [Amazon, Wikipedia], the 1954 Burt Lancaster, both for the title and the concept — an American man, washed up in the South Seas, becomes a political powerhouse in a small island society while battling distance creditors. Likewise, the exoticism of Larry’s adventures bring to mine a Dean Barrett adventure, less Kingdom of Make-Believe and more Murder at the Horny Toad Bar.

larry_hilbloom_boat

As for Larry’s fault — his biggest fault — my take is probably not that of many readers. His womanizing, the overly generous interpretation of the age of consent, all that is a costume that people wear. But what is not a costume is that Larry abandoned people. His mother, his business partners, his girlfriends, his kids, were left without him.

Here is where a photo of him and one of his kids should go. But there are none. Anywhere. So you have to use your imagination.

Larry’s passions — for business, for adventure, for girls and women — were human. But his coldness was monstrous.

I read King Larry in the Nook Edition.

6 thoughts on “Review of “King Larry: The Life and Ruins of a Billionaire Genius,” by James D. Scurlock”

  1. Purpleslog,

    Thanks!

    I wanted a good way to address the most salacious — but least relevant — aspect of the book. I’ll pat myself on the back for that one. ;-)

    The book made me think of America 3.0″ by Michael Lotus and James Bennet. [1] Bennet and Lotus give Abraham Lincoln as a transitional figure between the rain-and-soil world of America 1.0, and the steam-and-turbine world of America 2.0. Larry Hillblom is likewise a transitional figure. DHL was an Airline Company — it moves on the basis of burning fossil fuels to turn blades on engines — but what it was shipping was not coal or iron or even people, but information.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2013/07/03/review-of-america-3-0-by-james-bennet-and-michael-lotus.html

  2. I have America 3.0 on book stack 10 feet from where I type this. I need to crack it and read it. I added the documentary to the top of my Netflix queue. I’ll get to it when I finish the excellent series “Orange is the New Black”. I was never away of the DHL story but I had used them as shipper alot in my early post-college career.

  3. “Orange is the New Black” is fantastic — Lady of tdaxp and I watched the entire season Saturday & Sunday. And it only took me four episodes to realize two of the main characters are played by Dagney Taggert & Captain Janeway! :-)

    The “Billionaire” documentary is good — a solid abridgment of the story, though without much less about the deregulation fight (for obvious reasons). Most characters come across the same, though Junior’s lawyer comes across as more of a scumbag in the book, and the documentary completely leaves out Lory (“Larry”) Nguyen, which is how I first heard of this a decade ago (Lory briefly was the richest person in Vietnam).

  4. I finished Orange is the New Black…awesome! FYI…they were both on a now netflix stream-able series “Mercy” a few years back that deserved a second season.

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