FedEx is pretty much a household name when it comes overnight delivery. With 140,000 employees all across the world, and revenues of $35 billion (R 367 billion) it’s almost inconceivable to think that the company, in its fledgling years, was considered an “unfeasible” concept and came very close to complete bankruptcy. What saved FedEx at a time when the company’s checking account was so low it couldn’t make its jet fuel payment? Las Vegas blackjack!
Roger Frock, one of the company’s founders, describes the instance in his book on the history of FedEx Changing How the World Does Business. Frock describes a low point in the company’s finances with poor package volume, mounting costs, and a fuel bill that threatened to ground the company forever. In an act of desperation, FedEx CEO Fred Smith cashed FedEx’s remaining $5,000 and flew to Vegas to hit the blackjack tables. Next Monday morning, the FedEx checking account was $27,000 up, enough to keep the company afloat at a critical time, until more stable sources of funding could be gathered. According to Frock, Smith only explained where he had gotten the money after the deed was done. On page 101 of his book, Frock writes:
I said, “You mean you took our last $5,000– how could you do that?” [Fred] shrugged his shoulders and said, “What difference does it make? Without the funds for the fuel companies, we couldn’t have flown anyway.”