Einstein's relatively secret fortune
Sunday 18 December 2005
Albert Einstein and his scientific achievements are world-renowned. Less well-known are his successes as a stock market investor. But it turns out that, in less than 20 years, he and his adviser turned a few thousand dollars into more than $250,000.
A share certificate signed by the world's most famous physicist, discovered in the US, fetched €28,000 last week in Berlin. It reveals that Einstein's 60 shares in May Department Stores alone doubled in value in six years.
The image of Einstein as stock-market punter does not sit easily with that of Einstein the pacifist and idealist. "Money only appeals to selfishness and always irresistibly tempts its owner to abuse it," he once said.
Einstein pulled off the feat of being genuinely non-materialistic, while having more than enough money. On arrival in Princeton in the 1930s, he was asked to name his salary, and arrived at a figure of $3,000. This was turned down, to his surprise, as too low. His accountant, Samuel D Leidesdorf, persuaded him to settle for $17,000.
Thereafter Leidesdorf advised Einstein, and the share certificate sold last week may indeed represent Leidesdorf's, rather than Einstein's, acumen.
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