Braces, big phones and big profits – Gordon Gekko was the archetypal stock market villain. He made his fortune in real-estate speculation before moving into “corporate raiding”, a shady practice involving buying a large stake in a company before forcing it to downsize or liquidate, returning a healthy profit at the expense of its employees.
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” is his best-known quote. Yet greed, via insider trading, led to his downfall. After being wire-tapped by former protégé, Bud Fox, an 11-year prison sentence duly followed.
Forrest Gump/Lieutenant Dan
With money from endorsing a table tennis bat, Forrest buys a fishing boat to catch shrimp and fulfil a promise he made to his war comrade Bubba. Things aren’t going well for the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company until a freak storm sinks the competition, leaving Forrest and business partner Lieutenant Dan with a shrimp monopoly.
In the early 1970s, Lieutenant Dan invests their shrimp profits in “some kind of fruit company”. That company was in fact Apple Computers. We don’t know exactly how rich Forrest becomes but he says money became one less thing to worry about – and he has a gift for understatement.
How much of Ebenezer Scrooge’s wealth came from his own shrewd investments and how much of it was a result of extreme cost-saving measures is unclear. Refusing Bob Cratchit another piece of coal for the fire saved a few pennies. He especially despised Christmas and believed it was “a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December”.
Widely regarded as selfish, greedy and mean-spirited, Scrooge was a moneylender in Dickensian London. Were he in business today, no doubt he would refuse to invest in a colourful website with sliding-bar calculators and garish TV commercials with creepy puppets.
Scrooge McDuck is the most successful investor in the animal world and his creator, Karl Barks, puts his wealth at precisely one multiplujillion, nine obsquatumatillion, six hundred twenty-three dollars and sixty-two cents. Most of which he keeps in a giant, heavily-guarded money bin.
Coming from humble Glaswegian roots, he travelled the world to make his fortune, hunting treasure and making canny investments, such as gold mining at the beginning of the 20th century.
Poor kid Charlie Bucket finds a coin in a gutter, invests it in a few chocolate bars and ends up inheriting Willy Wonka’s vast confectionery empire. Not a bad return. That said, he still has to pass Wonka’s test of character by returning his everlasting gobstopper instead of selling the secret recipe to his rival Slugworth, thereby proving his nous as a long-term investor, rather than going for the easy short-term gain.
Charles Montgomery Burns
His portfolio is vast, ranging from Springfield’s nuclear power plant to the ill-fated Springfield monorail and the rights to the song White Christmas.
His most ingenious (and morally questionable) investment was a giant disc to block out the sun and force the residents of Springfield to increase their energy consumption. But a low point came when he suffered the ignominy of being expelled from Billionaire Camp after his net worth slipped to a paltry $996m.