Gulf & Western and the Mob

14 May 2011 at 11:21 pm 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

As a fan of the Godfather films, and a student of conglomerate diversification in the 1960s and 1970s, I’m surprised that I didn’t know, until today, about the connections between Gulf & Western CEO Charles Bluhdorn and the mafia. Paramount, the studio that made Godfather I and II, was at that time a Gulf & Western subsidiary (along with dozens of companies in industries ranging from auto parts to clothing, books, financial services, mining, sugar, cigars — you name it). Gulf and Western was at that time organized as a holding company, or what Williamson calls an “H-form” firm, not a more tightly integrated “M-form,” or multidivisional organization. H-form subsidiaries are operated as highly autonomous units, with little interference from company headquarters, so one wouldn’t expect Bluhdorn to have had much day-to-day contact with Paramount executives.

But apparently he intervened quite a lot. Today’s WSJ featured a piece on Hollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s, what some regard as a Golden Age of American cinema (besides Godfather, think Chinatown, Nashville, The Conversation, Rosemary’s Baby, etc. — all Paramount films). Evidently Bluhdorn was substantially involved with the production of Godfather, helping make casting decisions and even firing (and re-hiring) producer Al Ruddy. Why such close concern? Paramount executive Peter Bart thought that Bluhdorn had “the mind of a criminal” and was involved with “financiers who had close ties to the mob community.” One of these, I learn from a 2009 Vanity Fair article, was Michele Sindona, a mob-connected banker who died (by poisoning) in an Italian prison. Initially, the Mafia wanted the film scrubbed — unwanted attention and all that — but then relented and helped with production. Several mobsters acted as extras while others helped behind the scenes. A few of the major players, such as Al Lettieri, who played Sollozzo, and Gianni Russo, who played Carlo, were mob connected. Here’s how Russo described getting his part: “Charlie Bluhdorn had a lot of good friends. So I had some people call him and say, ‘You know, this guy Gianni Russo is a very close friend of ours.’”

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Theory of the Firm.

Frank Knight and the Austrians ACAC 2011

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. FC  |  15 May 2011 at 10:51 am

    “Leave the gun. Take the dividends.”

  • 2. Rafe Champion  |  15 May 2011 at 11:27 pm

    One of the silliest inflight movies ever was a comedy about a mobster who was recruited to advise on a film about the mafia. One of his tasks was to coach the lead who was an Australian (with a strong Aussie accent). The Don was offside with the other mob leaders at the time so to keep his troops out of trouble they all signed on as extras and lived in a giant trailer on the set.

  • 3. David - MA Security  |  18 May 2011 at 1:13 pm

    @FC, “Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first?” :)

  • 4. Michael Marotta  |  19 May 2011 at 12:18 pm

    As a numismatist, my favorite Mob Movie is Mickey Blue Eyes. “How much are these paintings worth?” … “They are worth whatever you can sell them for.”

    And speaking of namesakes: “It’s not personal, Michael. It’s just business.”

    Mike M.
    “always personable; never personal”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Nicolai J. Foss | home | posts
Peter G. Klein | home | posts
Richard Langlois | home | posts
Lasse B. Lien | home | posts


Former Guests | posts


Recent Posts



Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

%d bloggers like this: