At age 50, all Pierre DuPont really wanted to do was work in his garden.
After the financial success of his family's E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. during World War I, he certainly could have. The business already had been turned over to his younger brothers. Yet because of a large stake that was almost nonchalantly acquired, he got stuck as president of General Motors in 1920. He had been chairman of GM since 1915.
His interest in GM had begun in 1914 when he purchased 2,000 shares of GM stock for his personal portfolio and several hundred more for the family's trust. He paid $135,000.
DuPont had been encouraged to do this by his own company's treasurer, John Jacob Raskob. Before long — and not in the least because of an advantageous opportunity in one of Billy Durant's stock manipulations — the DuPonts owned 43 percent of all GM shares, worth about $50 million.
Durant organized GM in 1908 and lost control of it in 1910. But Billy was no quitter. Through financial and operational moves, he regained control in September 1915. But in 1920 he was out again — for good.