The rambling estate spread over a large tract of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Somewhere deep inside the perimeter lay a vast stone mansion. It had been built thirty years before the turn of the century and the stone had been quarried miles away in Maine before being transported by horse drawn carts to the site. At the beginning there were no roads, and these too were torn out of the land. The owners of this incredibly expensive undertaking employed scores of labourers and only the best stone masons, carpenters, bricklayers and any other tradesmen that were needed. It took two years to build the main house and another three before the grounds were redesigned, proper roads created and a dozen other smaller buildings erected. A stone wall ran right around the entire perimeter of the rambling property, but these days most of it was overgrown once more by the lush green forests. Here and there along the Inter-state highway that ran through King owned land, some parts of the wall remained, a curiosity of a bygone age, but the whole estate was still in the grip of that same founding family.
In the study of the master building a telephone rang. Tyler King picked up the receiver. He was a fourth generation King. The original King had made his fortune pushing the railroad from the East coast to the West. There had been a dalliance along the way with the Cog railway that runs up Mount Washington through the Bretton woods, but that had been solely for fun. Tyler King was an imposing man, a man who commanded a room simply by his presence. He was a shade under six feet tall and at thirty six years old, in the very peak of physical fitness. Every day he took a five mile run around some part or another of his estate, would take a hard work-out in his own gymnasium, and more often than not played a game of tennis or took a swim in his huge heated outdoor pool. His hair was a rich brown colour with a natural wave and his eyes though penetrating and sharp, were the same rich velvety brown. He had married four years earlier and now wanted nothing more than a son and heir to his fabulous fortune, but none had been forthcoming. Ruthless though he was, he loved his wife with all his heart, but worse was to come when his physician, backed up later by the world’s very best, confirmed that the problem lay with him, and not with his wife. She too was desperate for a family, but money can buy anything, anything at all and so Tyler put out a very specific list of requirements and waited. Surprisingly he did not need to wait long.
“Hello ? Tyler King”, he said into the instrument.
“Genesis, Mister King”, said a voice and then the line went dead. It was an agreed code signal. No further words were needed to instigate a plan that he himself and conceived. He had only to repeat the code word to a half dozen other people to activate the carefully made preparations. One by one he dialled the numbers from memory and said the same single word as each was answered, “Genesis”. For a man known the world over, a man known for his power and authority as much as his stamina and strength and nerves, Tyler’s hand was shaking by the time he made his final call. It was not shaking with fear but with excitement and he rushed out of his study to find his wife. The butler told him that Mrs King had gone down to the stables because she felt like a ride so he ran down there too, just in time to see her gallop off on a magnificent Arab stallion – a present from a grateful Sheikh after his latest deal. He spotted another horse that was saddled up nearby. Tyler favoured the large American saddle but the mount he saw had a small English style saddle. No matter, he grabbed the reins from the startled stable hand who was about to exercise the animal, swung himself up into the saddle and set out after his wife. The gate to the corral that surrounded the stables was shut, as it should be, and Tyler cleared it on his mount.
“Caroline ! Caroline!”, he shouted after her as he urged his horse onwards. After a few minutes he was fast closing the gap between them and he shouted her name again. This time she heard him and pulled the Arab to a stop. She turned it around to face her husband who reached her a few seconds later. “Its time honey. Genesis”, he said to her.
The galloped back to the main house, leaving the two horses sweating and panting outside. The butler would make sure that the stable hands came and took care of them. All their cases were already packed and had been for some time. A whole life more or less ready to move at a moments notice. The bags were taken downstairs to an open Jeep and Tyler followed with his wife. The Jeep took them to their own airstrip where their pilot had already completed pre-flight checks. Thirty minutes after Tyler had heard the word ‘Genesis’ from his telephone, they were airborne. The Gulfstream was the very latest model and could just make it across the Atlantic to Ireland, where it had to refuel, but all those arrangements were in place too.
“I never imagine it would be so soon”, said Caroline as she gripped her husband’s hand.
“Nor me honey, nor me.”
“Are you sure you want to do this ?”
“Oh yes, believe me I do”, he said smiling to reassure her.
“But, will it be, you know, right ?”
“You bethca, The money I’m paying and the guys I have checking it out. It’ll be perfect.”
“And there really was no other way ?”
“Even money can’t make me fertile honey”, he said with a shrug.
“We could’ve adopted, you know, discreetly.”
“Yeah I know and we talked about that too, but honey with my blood type and yours we need a very special child to be realistically accepted as ours, now you know that. Maybe two percent of people in the whole of the US have a type that would be right so the odds of finding such a child are pretty long. At least now we know for sure we have a match so lets hope everything else is as we said, huh ? Now I don’t know about you but I plan to get some sleep before we reach Switzerland.”
The aircraft flew on and thanks to a tail wind was able to hold a speed close to its maximum 460 miles an hour. Just under seven hours later it touched down in Ireland and refuelled for the last leg to Zurich. In a play on his name that had amused the original founder Joseph King, Crown Industries Inc was now spread right across the globe. An echo of the old British Empire, the county in which Joseph King was born in 1819, as the sun set on one Crown Industry property, so it rose on another.
In 1839 at the age of twenty, Joseph King set out from Liverpool to find his fortune in America. He was an only child of parents who died from smallpox when he was eighteen. He had a rough journey with frequent heavy storms and the loss of three crewmen, but eventually his ship berthed in Boston Massachusetts, and penniless he set foot in the Unites States of America. It was still a new raw and tough country, but so was young Joseph. At first he had to scrounge just for enough to eat and he slowly travelled north along the coast in search of some means to survive, let alone make his fortune. He eventually reached Maine and took a stint working on a Lobster fishing boat where his English accent was the source of much amusement. It wasn’t so very long ago that English settlers had first colonised this area but already the American dialects were well established. His first business enterprise sprang from here as he hit on the idea of cooking the Lobster himself and selling them as meals from a shack he more or less built with his own hands. The idea caught on because he charged a fair price and the fresh Lobster was both plentiful and cheap. In almost no time he had moved from the shack to a house that he converted into a restaurant and he began to earn a good income, until the winter came.
Maine winters are hard long and hard, and at that time of year the last thing on anybody’s mind is to got out for a Lobster dinner – just survival is enough. His first winter had been spent in the relative comfort of Boston but this second one almost killed the young Joseph. When at last the snows melted he staggered out of his house having burned everything inside just to keep warm, he had even begun to tear up some of the first floor planks from the two storey dwelling. He was a gaunt scarecrow with sunken eyes and wasted muscles hanging from his tall frame. Somehow he made it to his nearest neighbour, collapsing at their doorway. They nursed him back to health and it was a kindness he never forgot. By the time he was well enough to return to his own house it was almost Summer. He patched up his house and traded until Fall, but as soon as the leaves began to turn to their glorious red and gold, he sold up making a small profit, and headed South.
Eventually Joseph reached a town he thought he must have been fated to find, Saint Joseph, Missouri. He stayed there a while using the stake he had built up to trade in hardware but again, adventure beckoned. When the Oregon Trail opened up a couple of years later in 1843, Joseph sold up again, a move which made him another profit, and he headed West. He made it all the way to Oregon, but that wasn’t enough for him and he pressed on, eventually reaching California and the Pacific Ocean. For a while it seemed that Joseph was settled. He established a hardware store in San Francisco and soon prospered. By 1850, just five years after he first saw the Pacific Ocean, he owned three stores in the City and had bought some patches of land to the North with a view to the future growth of the metropolis. It was in this year, 1850, that he married Sarah, the daughter of a local rancher. Children did not come immediately to the happy couple and it was four years before the first of three sons was born – the beginning of the King dynasty. Travis King, the firstborn, was born in 1854. His second son James, was born in 1856 and then after eleven years of marriage, Edward was born in 1861.
The year before Edward’s birth, Congress had invoked the Trans-continental railway act. Joseph was quick to get involved in the business. He began supplying timber, then all manner of items that the railroad needed, and all the time buying up cheap plots of land along the route. In just another ten years he became very rich and owned land right across the USA. It was then that he decided to move back East to New Hampshire and build the stone mansion that still stands. He had loved his life in California, but he never forgot the New England states that reminded him so much of home, in England.
From the outset Joseph King had been a shrewd man, keeping a tight hold on both his business and his family. Every one of his three sons had started work in the family business at the very bottom, and had to earn their place in his Railroad company. For a while all three did just that but eventually the wild Travis was lured by the fast vanishing Wild West and left for Arizona and adventure. He had a fiery spirit that his father could hardly fault. Travis died in a gunfight in Tombstone Arizona on October 24th 1881. It was two days before Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday took on the McLaurys and Clantons in the OK corral. By this time Joseph had the affectionate nickname of ‘Old Man Joseph’, although aged sixty-two he was as fit and tough as he had ever been.
Two years before Travis died was the last time he saw his father, at the wedding of James. The marriage produced three grandsons and the second grand-daughter for Old Man Joseph. Edward King was the youngest son and he married in 1891. Two years later the marriage produced a grand-daughter, the first for the seventy four year old Joseph, and he adored her. In 1911 this part of his family decided to take a long vacation in Europe, arranging to sail back to the USA in April of the following year on a fabulous new liner called the RMS Titantic. Joseph was ninety three years old and had been a widower for the past eighteen years. The loss of his youngest son, his daughter-in-law and his favourite grand-daughter broke his heart, and he died before the end of the month.
When his first grandchild was born Joseph wrote the ‘Company Articles’ that would shape his empire for generations. He stipulated that the head of the company must always be a direct blood-line relative, better yet, the oldest son of the current head. This ruling was written in stone and as long as a direct descendant was the head, the company was to remain in private ownership. Once the blood-line ended, then and only then, could the company be broken up or put into the hands of investors. Accordingly, a blood test was mandatory for any man taking the position at the top. When this was written into the articles, blood-testing was a fairly new science and DNA testing had not been discovered at all. Through the following generations the blood testing of each new chairman became something of a joke, but joke or not, it was always carried out.
The middle son James King who had married in 1879, produced three grandsons and the second grand-daughter for his father. His youngest son was named Joseph Junior in honour of his father, and he married in 1910. His marriage produced one son, Theodore, but tragically he lost his wife at the same time, during the difficult birth. The science of blood transfusions was still in its infancy, but enough was known to understand that Joseph Junior’s wife had a very rare type and no match could be found in time to save her. In 1933 Theodore King married Geraldine Wells and two years later the current head of Crown Holdings was born.
The foundations for the huge company were laid very early on by the efforts of James King’s sons. All three had thrown themselves into the business world with both talent and dedication. They had all had gone to fight in the first world War but only Joseph Junior came back, his brothers lie in the allied war cemetery at Ypres in Belgium. His sister lived on to the grand age of one hundred and two but she never married. Returning from the war, Joseph Junior was soon back in the thick of it. By then ‘Crown Inc’ owned real estate throughout the United States and Europe too, but Theodore had a huge interest in all things to do with electricity. He began to invest in lots of small companies who were working with this strange power, and he bought large areas land around San Francisco when one or two of the West Coast companies decided to set up business in the region. As a result, while the electronics industry had yet to be invented, Crown Inc already had a strong foothold in all the key positions that would boom over the next generation.
(Chapter 2 continues to part 2)