Steve Fossett bigraphy, stories - American businessman, record-setting aviator, sailor, and adventurer

Steve Fossett : biography

22 April 1944 - 03 September 2007

James Stephen "Steve" Fossett (April 22, 1944 – c. September 3, 2007) was an American businessman, and a record-setting aviator, sailor, and adventurer. He was the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon. He made his fortune in the financial services industry, and was best known for many world records, including five nonstop circumnavigations of the Earth: as a long-distance solo balloonist, as a sailor, and as a solo flight fixed-wing aircraft pilot.

A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, Fossett set 116 records in five different sports, 60 of which still stood when he disappeared.

On September 3, 2007, Fossett was reported missing after the plane he was flying over the Nevada desert failed to return.

Despite a month of searches by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and others, Fossett could not be found, and the search by CAP was called off on October 2, 2007. Privately funded and privately directed search efforts continued, but after a request from Fossett's wife, he was declared legally dead on February 15, 2008. 

On September 29, 2008, a hiker found Fossett's identification cards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, and the crash site was discovered a few days later (on 1 October 2008) due south from Flying-M Ranch where he took off, and due west (282 degrees) of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area's base operations, although his remains were not initially found. On November 3, 2008, tests conducted on two bones recovered about from the site of the crash produced a match to Fossett's DNA.

Personal life

Fossett was married to Peggy Fossett (Viehland), originally from Richmond Heights, Missouri, in 1968. They had no children. The Fossetts had homes in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Chicago and a vacation home in Carmel, California.

Fossett became well known in the United Kingdom for his friendship with billionaire Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group sponsored some of Fossett's adventures.

Business career

In 1968, Fossett received an MBA from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was later a longtime member of the Board of Trustees. Fossett's first job out of business school was with IBM; he then served as a consultant for Deloitte and Touche, and later accepted a job with Marshall Field's. Fossett later said, "For the first five years of my business career, I was distracted by being in computer systems, and then I became interested in financial markets. That's where I thrived."

Fossett then became a successful commodities salesman in Chicago, first for Merrill Lynch in 1973, where he proved a highly successful producer of commission revenue for himself and that firm. He began working in 1976 for Drexel Burnham, which assigned him one of its memberships on the Chicago Board of Trade and permitted him to market the services of the firm from a phone on the floor of that exchange. In 1980, Fossett began the process that eventually produced his enduring prosperity: renting exchange memberships to would-be floor traders, first on the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

After 15 years of working for other companies, Fossett founded his own firms, Marathon Securities and Lakota Trading, from which he made millions renting exchange memberships. He founded Lakota Trading for that purpose in 1980. In the early 1980s, he founded Marathon Securities and extended that successful formula to memberships on the New York stock exchanges. He earned millions renting floor trading privileges (exchange memberships) to hopeful new floor traders, who would also pay clearing fees to Fossett's clearing firms in proportion to the trading activity of those renting the memberships. In 1997, the trading volume of its rented memberships was larger than any other clearing firm on the Chicago exchange. Lakota Trading replicated that same business plan on many exchanges in the United States and also in London. Fossett would later use those revenues to finance his adventures. Fossett said, "As a floor trader, I was very aggressive and worked hard. Those same traits help me in adventure sports."

Living octopus

Living octopus

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