Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games around the world. But did you know that winning at the game helped to save FedEx, the global delivery services company?
This is the inside story of how blackjack saved the future of FedEx back in the 1970s.
Smith rolls the dice
Frederick Wallace Smith was born in Mississippi and had a tough upbringing, losing father at a young age, while he also had bone disease as a child.
After graduating from Yale, where he was friends with the future U.S. president George W. Bush, Smith served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years, including two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Smith went into business after leaving the military and in 1971 he used his millions of dollars of inheritance to set up Federal Express – FedEx.
But the early days of the company were not successful, leading Smith to roll the dice. In 1973, he took $5,000 to Las Vegas after being denied a business loan.
Whether it was his luck or skill at the blackjack table, Smith turned that $5,000 into $27,000 through gambling, winning enough money to pay an outstanding bill for FedEx.
It is regarded as a big turning point for the future of the company, but is the story true?
The legendary tale checks out
Though many may understandably be cynical about a businessman gambling the future of his company, the story about Smith taking his last $5,000 to the blackjack table seems to be true.
It has been pointed out Smith was a millionaire when he founded FedEx due to inheritance from his father, who ran the Smith Motor Coach Company and the Toddle House restaurant chain.
FedEx also raised $91 million in venture capital, which is the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars in today’s money. It seems improbable that Smith was down to just $5,000 in cash.
But the story comes directly from Smith himself, who told the tale to founding executive Roger Frock in his book Changing How the World Does Business: Fedex’s Incredible Journey to Success – The Inside Story, which was first published in 2006.
Smith, who has gone on to tell the story to many other sources, claims that the money he won by playing blackjack in Las Vegas was enough to keep FedEx going for one more week.
The rest, as they say, is history. Smith might not be one of the world’s best blackjack players, but there is no doubt his decision to head to Vegas to play the game kept FedEx going.
Today, the 76-year-old Smith is regarded as a titan of American industry and is worth billions of dollars. Smith is a minority owner of NFL team the Washington Football Team, while his son Arthur is employed as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.
Smith is still the steady hand at the tiller for FedEx, acting as both the company’s chairman and its chief executive. FedEx posted revenues of $69.693 billion in 2019 and now employs some 600,000 people around the world.
What lessons can be learned from Smith’s success?
Sometimes gambling can certainly pay off, as proven by Smith’s risky move to gamble the future of his company at the blackjack table.
Nowadays, though, there is another way to profit from the blackjack table. Blackjack cannot be played for free, or can it?
In reality, free blackjack is available at a lot of different online casino sites now. This can happen in a number of ways. One is demo play, which does not offer the chance to win real cash.
Many online casino sites now offer no deposit bonuses, with funds provided to new players for them to use on games such as blackjack. Other deals include deposit match bonuses, where users can get plenty of free dollars with which to play at the blackjack table at online casinos.
While terms and conditions such as wagering requirements apply, using no deposit deals is a great way to profit from blackjack – and follow in the footsteps of FedEx’s Smith.
“No business school graduate would recommend gambling as a financial strategy, but sometimes it pays to be a little crazy early in your career,” he once said.