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J.J. Astor outsmarted his competition

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Early American fur magnate John Jacob Astor was a brilliant opportunist who outsmarted his competitors.

One example:

As the best fur trapping grounds moved west into the Rockies, Astor saw the need for a western entrance.

But his chief competitor, the Northwest Co. of Montreal, also sought a western entrance.

While Canadians tried and failed again and again by land, Astor sent a ship around Cape Horn, establishing a fort at the mouth of the Columbia River. Six weeks later, a Canadian expedition showed up … six weeks late.

If Astor had not taken the easier route, Oregon might now be Canadian.

The lesson: Blazing a trail isn’t always the best way to lead.

— Adapted from Masters of Enterprise, H.W. Brands, Free Press.


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