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Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend | [Mitchell Zuckoff]

Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

It was a time when anything seemed possible, instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury, and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the "rob Peter to pay Paul" scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston.
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Publisher's Summary

It was a time when anything seemed possible, instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury, and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the "rob Peter to pay Paul" scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston. Ponzi's Scheme is the amazing true story of the irresistible scoundrel who launched the most successful scheme of financial alchemy in modern history, and uttered the first roar of the Roaring Twenties.

Ponzi may have been a charlatan, but he was also a wonderfully likable man. His intentions were noble, his manners impeccable, his sales pitch enchanting. Born to a genteel Italian family, he immigrated to the United States with big dreams but no money. Only after he became hopelessly enamored of a stenographer named Rose Gnecco and persuaded her to marry him did Ponzi light on the means to make his dreams come true. His true motive was not greed but love.

With rich narrative skill, Mitchell Zuckoff conjures up the feverish atmosphere of Boston during the weeks when Ponzi's bubble grew bigger and bigger. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was taking in more than $2 million a week. And then his house of cards came crashing down, thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier's Boston Post.

In Zuckoff's hands, Ponzi is no mere swindler; instead he is appealing and magnetic, a colorful and poignant figure, someone who struggled his whole life to attain great wealth and who sincerely believed, to the very end, that he could have made good on his investment promises if only he'd had enough time. Ponzi is a classic American tale of immigrant life and the dream of success, and the unexpectedly moving story of a man who, for a fleeting, illusory moment, attained it all.

©2005 Mitchell Zuckoff; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Zuckoff...tells Ponzi's story amicably and briskly, and keeps the complicated financial intricacies understandable." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Zuckoff's biography of Ponzi is meticulously accurate, based on memoirs and newspaper accounts of the day, weaving the story of the rise of this small-time Italian immigrant with that of Richard Grozier, second-generation editor of the Boston Post." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (171 )
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4.3 (46 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Celia New Orleans LA 11-11-05
    Celia New Orleans LA 11-11-05 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very enlightening"

    Having heard of a Ponzi Scheme nearly all my life, it was very, very interesting to find out where and how it all started (and ended). This certainly falls into the "...it seemed like a good idea at the time..." category. I enjoyed this book very much.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 03-21-05
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 03-21-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "A great book"

    I have seldom enjoyed a book more, and Grover Gardner's reading as always is the best! An inciteful look at the 20's and at the shambles that was (and still is?) Boston politics.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Littman OH 04-29-05
    D. Littman OH 04-29-05 Member Since 2014

    history buff

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1366
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    Overall
    "An odd book"

    What does this book have going for it? It has a great narrator & a brisk style of writing. What does this book have going against it? Alot of extraneous material shoved in to make it thicker, a fairly despicable main character who is painted somewhat sympathetically by the author, a relatively simple-minded fraud (unlike two other books on tape I have recently listened to off of Audible -- on Enron & on LTCM) that does not have enough finance intricacy to be of significant interest. Oh, I should say that the book is probably worth reading just so you know where the term Ponzi scheme came from. I am sorry that I am not more enthusiastic about it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Haarlem, Netherlands 05-20-12
    Robert Haarlem, Netherlands 05-20-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Surprise yourself! Sympathize with a crook!"
    Where does Ponzi's Scheme rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    About the second or thrid best book I've listened to.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It is hard not to sympathize with Charles Ponzi, who had a brilliant idea put forgot to put the paperwork in the mail. And forgot to do the real work too. But by selling his efforts as "Helping the little man", became everyone's hero.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    His reading speed is brilliant, and the subtle way in which he emphasizes important quotes makes listening very easy and entertaining.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Ann Arbor, MI, USA 04-15-10
    Steven Ann Arbor, MI, USA 04-15-10
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    "A Business Biography that Reads Like Novel"

    I really enjoyed listening to this book. The author doesn't overdo the coverage on any part of Ponzi's life, or spend time going over pointless antidotes that don't serve the purpose of illustrating either a pivotal moment or the character of Ponzi. As a result, the story moves along at a really nice pace and is never too slow or boring.
    The narration was also really good - as good as it gets in my opinion. Some narrators are really boring to listen to, but this guy (Grover Gardner) did such a great job I felt that his narration added to the interest of the story. Some narrators sound like they just got woken up from a nap to do a reading, but Gardner's treatment is upbeat and lively.
    I felt listening to this book was time well spent and worth the purchase/credit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    irene 04-14-09
    irene 04-14-09 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good read"

    A truly fascinating story that is set up very well by the author in order to have the reader understand the context of how Ponzi could coordinate such a scheme(scam). There is a bit more information than is necessary, like the entire college history of who turns out to be the main antagonist, but it was worth it in the end. This is moxie beyond imagination........

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Nashua, NH USA 04-01-06
    Amazon Customer Nashua, NH USA 04-01-06 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting"

    Everyone has heard of the term Ponzi Scheme, and this book details his life. Very entertaining, great reader. Ponzi was a nut.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nan Memphis, TN, United States 03-27-06
    Nan Memphis, TN, United States 03-27-06 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful"

    I love this kind of historical books! Easy and pleasureable to listen to while learning.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Franklin, MA, United States 01-20-09
    Robert Franklin, MA, United States 01-20-09 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent if you like history and business"

    This book is excellent. As this book provides the color of the 1900 - 1920's in Boston, it provides an entertaining account of the flawed optimist Charles Ponzi rags to riches to rags story. Nicely written and well read.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Rungsted KystDenmark 07-13-05
    Martin Rungsted KystDenmark 07-13-05
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    "Informative and entertaining"

    This is the type of publication that is perfect as an audiobook. The author tells the facts about Ponzi, in a way that makes it as entertaining and dramatic as good fiction. There?s a lot of material on the subject of Ponzi and Boston in the 20?s, and I?m sure some of it could have been left out without compromising the book. But it is an entertaining insight in the man, Ponzi, and in the mechanisms that lead to the dramatic end of the story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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