The Most Important Round Of Golf In Westchester Business History?
A game between business giants J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie may have shaped the face of American industry.
The Saint Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson is America's oldest golf club.
It’s probably impossible to prove, but it’s believed that a deal spawned at The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson may have been the largest ever struck on a golf course. The club, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, played an essential role in the sale of member Andrew Carnegie’s steel interests to J.P. Morgan and others in 1901. The deal was a perfect example of the role golf can play in business (not to mention the value of scoring judiciously when playing against your boss).
Morgan had made it known that he and his partners wanted to buy out Carnegie so they could monopolize the steel industry. Carnegie Steel Company President Charles M. Schwab saw the value of the deal (he subsequently became president of the company it created, US Steel), but the ultimate decision was Carnegie’s, and he wasn’t particularly interested in selling. Carnegie’s wife, Louise, though, wanted Carnegie to retire. Here’s how author H.W. Brands described what happened in American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900.
“Louise Carnegie conspired with Schwab against her husband. Shortly after Schwab informed her of the merger scheme, she telephoned to say that Carnegie would be playing golf the next morning at Saint Andrew’s club in Westchester. He was always more cooperative after winning at the Scottish national sport, she suggested. Schwab took the hint, whiffed a few for the cause, and broached the subject of selling. Carnegie didn’t reject the plan outright, which Schwab took to be a good sign.”
It was. The next morning, Carnegie named his price: $480 million. Morgan accepted it and a few days later closed the deal personally. As he shook Carnegie’s hand, he said, “Mr. Carnegie, I want to congratulate you on being the richest man in the world.” At that time, it probably wasn’t an exaggeration. The deal would be worth about $13 billion in today’s dollars. That has to make it one of the biggest deals ever born on a golf course.
Andrew Carnegie (far right) plays the Scottish national sport with his golfing buddies at Saint Andrew’s.