Annual revenues reached nearly $40 million
Samuel Insull was born in London on 11 November 1859. After school he became a clerk, before becoming Thomas Edison’s secretary which necessitated a move to America in 1881. He was one of the founders of Edison General Electric, which later evolved into General Electric. In 1892 Insull left Edison General Electric to relocate to Illinois where he became president of Chicago Edison.
The company had a monopoly on supplying power to the city and by 1920 the company’s 6,000 employees served around half a million customers and annual revenues reached nearly $40 million.
Insull began to buy up parts of the city’s utility infrastructure as well as its transport. There were some who believed that Insull was exploiting people though his company’s monopoly. One of his main critics was Harold L. Ickes who, in 1933, became Secretary of the Interior in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Insull’s holding company collapsed during the Great Depression, wiping out 600,000 shareholders’ investments.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Samuel Insull fled America for Greece but he was extradited to America where he stood trial on mail fraud and anti-trust charges. He was acquitted but, as a result, the government introduced the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. He died of a heart attack at the Place de la Concorde station in Paris on 16 July 1938.