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Floyd Odlum

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Floyd Bostwick Odlum March 30, 1892 – June 17, 1976 was an American lawyer and industrialist He has been described as "possibly the only man in the United States who made a great fortune out of the Depression"1

Life and careeredit

After struggling as a corporate attorney in Salt Lake City, Odlum received an offer of a job at a New York firm, and in 1921 became vice-president of his primary client, Electric Bond and Share Company In 1923, Odlum, a friend, and their wives pooled a total of $39,600 and formed the United States Company to speculate in purchases of utilities and general securities Within two years, the company's net assets had increased 17 fold to nearly $700,0002 In 1928, Odlum incorporated Atlas Utilities Company to take over the common stock of his other company

During the summer of 1929, Odlum was one of the few industrial moguls to believe that the boom on Wall Street could not continue much longer, and he sold one half of Atlas's holdings, as well as $9 million in new securities to investors He had $14 million in cash and short term notes when the stock market crashed3 During the next few years, Atlas Utilities bought up stock in less fortunate investment companies at Depression-reduced prices After Franklin D Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United States, Odlum shifted gears, selling off utilities before stronger regulation set in, and switching to large-scale financing By 1933, Odlum was one of the 10 wealthiest men in the United States Besides Atlas Corporation, he had a major stake in RKO Studios,4 Convair, Northeast Airlines, and Bonwit Teller, among other businesses, and was associated in the aviation business with financier George Newell Armsby Odlum's association with Armsby provided a link to Armsby and John Cheever Cowdin's enterprise Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc

In 1948, Odlum sold RKO to Howard Hughes5 Odlum was an investor in the 1954 production of the Broadway show The Pajama Game—during which actress Shirley MacLaine was discovered by Paramount Pictures producer Hal Wallis—and convinced Goldman Sachs's head Sidney Weinberg to invest as well6

Odlum was first married, in 1915, to Hortense McQuarrie, first female department store head at Bonwit Teller; they were divorced in 1935 His second wife, whom he married in 1936, was aviator Jackie Cochran Odlum and Cochran were close friends of Amelia Earhart and her husband George P Putnam, and the Odlums were financial backers of Earhart's flying activities They developed the Cochran-Odlum C-O Ranch in Indio, California where they lived after the 1950s

Odlum along with a business associate LBoyd Hatch also purchased and developed Hatch's Camp, also known as St Ann's Retreat, or Pine Glenn Cove, a mountainous retreat in Logan Canyon, Utah In 2006, Pine Glenn Cove was placed on the National Register of Historic Places

Odlum died in 1976 at the age of 84


  1. ^ Current Biography 1941, pp629-31
  2. ^ Current Biography 1941, pp 629-31
  3. ^ Current Biography 1941, p630
  4. ^ "Cutting Koerners: Floyd Odlum, the Atlas Corporation and the Dismissal of Orson Welles from RKO", Vincent L Barnett, Film History: An International Journal, Volume 22, Number 2, 2010, pp 182-198
  5. ^ "The Power Elite" C Wright Mills, Alan Wolfe
  6. ^ "Goldman Sachs : The Culture of Success" by Lisa Endlich

External linksedit

  • A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Floyd Odlum" is available at the Internet Archive

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