How a Weekend in Vegas Saved FedEx from Bankruptcy

8 months ago
How a Weekend in Vegas Saved FedEx from Bankruptcy
31 Jul

The myths and fairytales associated with Las Vegas are perhaps surpassed only by those stories that really happened in the City of Lights – and often the two are indistinguishable, as the following incredible FedEx blackjack legend shows…

The $60billion-valued Fortune500 company that ‘delivers globally’ but has its headquarters based in Memphis, Tennessee, may not seem like the basis for a remarkable Vegas gambling tale.

Back in its earliest days, however, founder Frederick Smith had run through the $millions that had originally set Federal Express up with an 8-plane, 35-city delivery route.

Down to just $5000, loan applications being rejected and with no way to meet the next week’s fuel bills let alone wages, legend has it that Smith decided that the bright lights of Vegas was his only option.

The story that has been related ever since was recalled by Smith’s founding executive Robert Frock in his book, ‘Changing How the World Does Business: Fedex's Incredible Journey to Success - The Inside Story.’

“I asked Fred where the funds had come from, and he responded, ‘The meeting with the General Dynamics board was a bust and I knew we needed money for Monday, so I took a plane to Las Vegas and won $27,000.’
I said, ‘You mean you took our last $5,000-- how could you do that?’
He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘What difference does it make? Without the funds for the fuel companies, we couldn't have flown anyway.’ Fred's luck held again. It was not much, but it came at a critical time and kept us in business for another week."

On the face of it, not a story to rival Archie Karas’ famous run on Vegas, the poker-playing gambler turning his last $50 into $40million in a jaw-dropping two-year winning spree between 1993 and 1995.

Then again, whereas FedEx got through its bad times on the back of Smith’s blackjack gamble, and emerged as a global leader in its field, Karas lost the lot, and more, ending with a ban from all Nevada casinos for card-marking.

It’s hard to tell fiction from reality in Vegas – which is almost the entire point of the city – but the tales are amazing whether true or not, verifiable or otherwise.

Here’s one by ‘Gaming Guru’ Frank Scoblete, courtesy of Casino Player’s ‘100 Greatest Events in Casino Gaming’.

Scoblete describes “A smelly bum, whose wife has just kicked him out of the house” taking his $400 social security check and turning it into “between $1.3 and $1.6 million” in what is described as “a weeklong orgy of good luck at the blackjack tables”.

However, the bum is also “the rudest, crudest, but luckiest bastard they ever saw” at Treasure Island casino on Las Vegas Boulevard.

After pissing off everybody he could, the inevitable happens and “he finally blows his incredible bundle” whereupon legend has it that Steve Wynn himself “steps in and has him escorted out into the neon night and into the dawn of a new Las Vegas legend.”

Articles 2023

Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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