Winston-Salem’s ‘reluctant millionaires,’ Part 2

“Free from the grip of Northern interlopers [after the 1911 breakup of the tobacco trust], Mr. RJ began force-feeding Reynolds stock to employees. … Never mind that many didn’t want to go into hock….As the value of Reynolds stock ballooned in coming years, Winston-Salem came to be known as ‘the city of reluctant millionaires.’…

“[After the 1989 buyout by KKR] the world’s greatest concentration of RJR shareholders [wasn’t] thanking [departing CEO F. Ross] Johnson even as the money gushed into town.  Nearly $2 billion of checks arrived there in the late-February mail….  The river of money had washed away the last of RJR’s stock. Local brokers and bankers who managed people’s money got calls from distraught clients. ‘I won’t sell my stock,’ more than one sobbed. ‘Daddy said don’t ever sell the RJR stock.’ They were patiently told they had to. They were told the world had changed.”

— From “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (1990)

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