Dear Tech Stars Who Celebrate New Riches With Fast Cars -- Remember This Cautionary Tale!

Business Insider’s Steven Tweedie has a fun story today about the founder of virtual-reality pioneer Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey.

Like many folks fortunate enough to sell their companies for billions, the 22-year old Mr. Luckey quickly treated himself to a fast car, a $US120,000 Tesla.

And who can blame him?

If I were ever fortunate enough to sell a company for $US2.3 billion, I’d probably treat myself to something a great deal faster than a Tesla — maybe something with room for 12 and a cruising altitude of 45,000 feet.


Boring old guy that I now am, every time I see a newly wealthy tech star rush out and buy a fast car after cashing in, I am reminded of the cautionary tale of the CEO of Eagle Computer, a once-red-hot tech company that went public in June of 1983.

The day of the IPO, after the stock started trading and the company’s executives had officially hit the jackpot, Eagle’s CEO and a yacht dealer went for a spin in the CEO’s red Ferrari.

Isadore Barmash of The New York Times told the story:


The young president of a successful new computer company died Wednesday afternoon in a car crash in California’s Silicon Valley, hours after his company had sold its stock to the public for the first time and he had become a multimillionaire.

Dennis R. Barnhart, 40 years old, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Computer Inc., was on his way home to his wife and three children with a companion, Sheldon R. Caughey, also 40.

It is not clear who was driving, but Mr. Barnhart’s red Ferrari veered out of control a block from company headquarters in Los Gatos. The car flew through the air, tore through 20 feet of guard rail and crashed into a ravine.

Mr. Barnhart was dead on arrival at Los Gatos General Hospital. 

Life is fragile. Live well!

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