Wondery Presents Business MoversAmerican Scandal
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- 14 Jan 2021
In Wondery’s newest series, Business Movers, host Lindsay Graham dives deep into the inner workings of some of the most successful companies of all time. From the origin stories of their famed leaders to the million dollar idea that catapulted them to success, how exactly did these companies grow from an idea and a dream to multi-billion dollar corporations? Hear the landmark decisions, the scandals, and the stunning triumphs that made them who they are. First up: Walt Disney. Listen at wondery.fm/business_movers.
Here on American SCANA, we've covered some of the most shocking true stories in American history, including many of capitalism gone wrong. But the business world isn't all scandal for every Enron. There are hundreds of thousands of other companies doing good work, growing, striving and succeeding. I'm Lindsey Graham, host of American history tellers American Scandal. And now one new series, Business Movers, where we dive deep into the inner workings of some of the most successful companies and business leaders of all time, from the origin stories of their famed leaders to the million dollar idea that catapulted them to success.
How exactly did these companies grow from a mere dream to billion dollar corporations here about the critical decisions, the scandals and the stunning triumphs that made these companies what they are? The first season of Business Movers features a name that has been synonymous with the entertainment industry since the early 20th century. Walt Disney learn how, even when faced with harrowing obstacles and wide ranging skepticism, he remained true to his vision and brought his world of magic to life. You're about to hear a preview of business movers while you're listening.
Subscribe to business movers on Apple, podcasts, Spotify, or listen early and add free in the wandering app. Behind every successful business is a story he begins with a vision and then a leap of faith along the way, people make bold decisions, ride through booms and busts, and sometimes they find success. Before I began hosting shows like American Scandal, American History Tellers and producing audio dramas like 1865, I got my masters in business because I've always been interested in how businesses work, how they grow, how they thrive.
In business school, we looked at case studies. How did this business succeed? Why did that business fail on business movers? We'll ask those same questions and we'll dive into the true stories of the brilliant but all too human business leaders who risked it all the critical moments that led to their triumph or failure, and the ideas that transformed the way we live our lives. We begin with a four episode series about Walt Disney and what drove his desire to build a bigger and better theme park in Orlando, Florida.
Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but it's also a business, and Walt, the shrewd entrepreneur, was a cutthroat businessman driven by a bold vision and a relentless pursuit of a better bottom line. While Walt's movies were critically acclaimed. They didn't always make money, but after Disneyland got over its rocky start, it made money and a lot of it. In 1957 alone, the part grossed more than 11 million dollars, well over 100 million today.
But Walt was not motivated by dollars alone. He was also driven by a desire for perfection. Once at a showing of Fantasia, when a journalist asked Walt why he was rearranging chairs at his own movie screening, Walt replied, Because I like things just so. Walt's desire for perfection drove him to improve on Disneyland and create a second theme park. As he searched for the perfect location. Walt envisions something bigger and better than Disneyland, something new and something perfect.
A total destination resort, a city of tomorrow. This is Episode one, Project Future. It's November 1963 in St. Louis, Missouri, Walt Disney has come to town nine months after construction began on the Gateway Arch, America's tallest manmade monument. St. Louis is a town on the rise. And today, Disney brings with him the potential for another massive project, a second Disney theme park. The finances are sorted. The paperwork's been drafted. All that's left is to put pen to paper, which is why Walt Disney, his executives and a group of local politicians and business leaders have gathered for a celebratory dinner.
Walt sits at the head of the table. He looks dapper with his neatly groomed mustache and slicked graying hair. All smiles, Walt proposes a toast.
Here's to a bright and successful future and a fruitful partnership.
After considering upwards of a dozen cities won't show St. Louis and no small part because the locals have been easy to work with, but that's all about to change because there's one dinner guest who is not smiling. August Gussie Bush Jr., the successful St. Louis beer magnate Gussie is clearly skeptical of Walt Disney's theme park, and he's about to blow the deal while Mr. Disney looks like everything's in place. But what about liquor? I beg your pardon? You heard me.
Gus's blunt question sucks the air out of the room that steals the smile off Walt's face. Booze is my business and St. Louis is my town. If you're going to be coming here at at least like to know what your distribution plan is, sitting nearby, the local mayor tries to intervene. Well, now, Mr. Bush, I believe that question has already been answered, hasn't it? Well, it has. Walt's position on liquor is non-negotiable. As long as he's around, it will never be sold on Disney property.
Walt believes liquor would cheapen the Disney image and the family friendly Disney brand, the Walt Disney say a word to Gussy. He quietly listens as the brash Mr. Bush presses the issue. I think liquor is critical.
Like I said, the question's already been answered. Then we ought to revisit the issue. Mr. Mayor, the fact is, any man who thinks he can design an attraction that is going to be a success in this city and not serve beer or liquor ought to have his head examined. It's an outrageous taunt. But Walt doesn't blow his top. He hardly shows any emotion at all. He simply raises his right eyebrow. The Disney executives in the room have seen this look before and they know exactly what it means.
Walt is livid. Later that night, Walt returns to his hotel suite across town, one of his executives walks into his room. Good night, Mr. Disney. What time can we have the plane in the morning? The plane? We have a meeting in the morning. We're supposed to get about that. It's finished. We're not going to that meeting. Have the plane ready first thing.
Whether or not Walt Disney abandoned St. Louis because of Gussie Bush's offensive comment is not entirely known. But what is known by all of us is that no Disney theme park was built in St. Louis. And the story about Disney and Gussie Busch illustrates a critical fact about the man many called Uncle Walt. He was a hard nosed businessman who did not back down. Walt was determined that Disney World would eventually eclipse Disneyland, and to achieve that goal, he would embrace what worked the first time and improve on what didn't.
The liquor policy was essential. The family friendly Disney brand was more precious to Walt than any possible location for the park, no matter how accommodating. But the most important lesson Walt had learned the first time around was not about booze. It was about the importance of keeping the secret.