From a Vegas Weekend to a Billion Dollar Company: How Federal Express Founder turned his life around and changed American History

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In a time as crucial and unprecedented as this, stories are what keep us going. Especially when the world has come to a halt and digital media is something we can resort to, online portals and platforms have given us so much more wisdom and knowledge than we’d expect, under such circumstances. And despite everything, if you look at the gaming industry right now, it has been thriving and thriving, maintaining a repertoire and instilling faith in users and gaming enthusiasts all over the world.

Indeed, live poker rooms and casinos have been hit majorly and we can’t recall a time when all the casinos were closed statewide, more or less worldwide. Only time will tell how long live poker will be shuttered, but one thing we do know is that in the meantime, we all need some positivity in our lives. Keeping that in mind, here’s a success story of a well-known American company whose existence would have been in jeopardy, if it weren’t for poker.

Frederick Smith was someone who had to deal with a lot of adversity during his youth. When he was just four years old, his father died. The little guy developed a disease that threatened his ability to walk, and had to wear leg braces for years. He eventually grew out of it and went on to play football in high school.

In the early 60s, he got accepted into Yale University and wrote a paper for his economics class about his vision to launch a company that would supply overnight deliveries with its own airplanes, depots, mail stations, and delivery vans. His professor wasn’t impressed and graded him a C as he didn’t think the idea made any sense. Frederick graduated in 1966 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served two tours of duty as part of an infantry unit and as a pilot in Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and a Bronze Star and was discharged in 1969.

Frederick showed a major interest in Ark Aviation Sales, a company that did aircraft maintenance right after his discharge. He turned it into a successful company that bought and sold corporate jets. He then decided to pursue his university idea of starting an overnight delivery company, thereby obtaining some venture capitalist money and pooled it with his own, starting a business called Federal Express in the early 70s.

Around 1973, Federal Express shipped its first delivery of 186 packages. Fuel costs were climbing, causing the company bank account to bleed. In the next four years, Federal Express was losing more than $1 million a month and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Frederick tried to procure additional financial backing but to no avail. With just $5,000 left in the company account, he realized that there wasn’t enough to pay the next week’s bill to refuel the company planes.

Frederick decided this was a moment of ride or die. He took the last $5,000 and flew to Las Vegas for the weekend. After many long hours at a blackjack table, he ended the weekend with $32,000, a profit of $27,000, which was enough to pay the bill to refuel the planes.

A few days was all he needed to raise an additional $11 million to keep the business running. By 1976, Federal Express aka FedEx was able to turn a profit of $3.6 million. Profits increased to about $40 million by the year 1980. By 2000, Frederick Smith was on the top 400 list of richest people in the world.

Currently, FedEx is the world’s second-largest airline in terms of number of planes with more than 700 in the fleet. FedEx delivers about 17 million packages a day and is valued at an estimated $30 billion. The man was named the 26th Greatest Leader in the World by Fortune Magazine and has a net worth of more than $6 billion.

 

Can you imagine what would have happened if his weekend at Las Vegas didn’t pan out?

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