Today we recognise one of the most legendary punts in history from a man well and truly in a league of his own. That man is Frederick Wallace Smith. Founder, CEO, and president of FedEx – and the story can only be described as extraordinary.
It was the mid-70s. The only time when what you’re about to hear could possibly be within the realms of acceptable. During the third year of FedEx operating as a business, the company found itself in a dire financial situation.
After a make-or-break business loan fell through, it seemed as though the future of FedEx was written in stone. The kind of stone they place above a grave. But Frederick Smith refused to go down without a red-hot fight. The man had been a Captain in the US Marine Corps – during the Vietnam War, of all wars to have served in. Surrender clearly wasn’t in his vocabulary.
At this point in time, our hero reached his crossroads moment. Smith took FedEx’s last US$5,000 to Las Vegas – where dreams are born and slaughtered every five minutes – to put it all on the line. At the blackjack table, there was a turn of good fortune… US$5,000 became US$27,000.
Enough to cover the company’s $24,000 aviation fuel bill with change to spare. In fact, this very punt was what kept FedEx alive for another week. Needless to say, it paid off. One week stretched to two, two became four, and soon after, Smith successfully raised US$11 million for the company.
In 1976, FedEx reported its first profits of US$3.6 million. Four years after, profits were almost US$40 million with gross revenue at close to half a billion. Fast forward to the present day, FedEx has an international presence with a market cap of over US$40 billion and revenue of over US$65 billion! Definitely not too shabby for a risky arvo in Vegas.
Believe it or not, this is just one of many fascinating details surrounding the formation of FedEx. The initial inception of FedEx’s concept occurred to Frederick Smith while he was attending Yale. There, he submitted a paper on overnight delivery service in the information era for his economic class (for which he received a C grade). And while this doesn’t sound like that groundbreaking of an idea, keep in mind this was in 1962 back when doctors were telling pregnant women to smoke and questioning whether people of colour deserved human rights.
In 2014, Frederick Smith was named the 26th Greatest Leader in the World by Fortune Magazine. As of 2017, he holds a net worth of US$5.4 billion.