In Stop Acting Rich, I mentioned my admiration for Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. His motor vehicle of choice was a Ford pick-up truck. Interestingly, it was also the favorite among the millionaires profiled in The Millionaire Next Door.
In sharp contrast to Mr. Walton’s lifestyle, a recent article reported that his heirs donated $800M to build an art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is commendable that they have made this contribution to the arts. However, no where in the article are the sacrifices that Mr. Walton and his early group of colleagues made in an effort to create what Wal-Mart is today mentioned. Mr. Walton and his executives more often than not took business trips overnight by bus instead of flying and paying for hotel rooms. When they did stay in a hotel, they typically slept 2-4 in a room! These are just some of the many examples that are discussed in his biographies. For every $100 they saved, they invested them back into the business. And $100 invested initially would be worth more than $5M today.
How do I feel when I read about the Walton’s “Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art” and how it outbid the National Gallery of Art to buy Asher B. Durand’s Hudson River School masterpiece, “Kindred Spirits,” from the New York Public Library for around $35M? I envision Sam Walton smiling. The country boy from Arkansas has beaten out the city slickers again!