Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2009 (Revised March 2012)

Al Capone

by Tom Nicholas and David Chen

Abstract

In 1929, Chicago, IL mob boss Al Capone was at the height of his power. As head of the extensive crime organization known as "The Outfit" during most of U.S.'s Prohibition Era (1920-1933), Capone oversaw hundreds of brothels, speakeasies, and roadhouses which served as venues for gang-administered gambling, prostitution, and illegal alcohol sales. At their peak, yearly revenues from all of his enterprises combined totaled over $100 million. Capone's ability to operate these establishments with impunity stemmed from a combination of his political ties and a profound fear of reprisal. Capone's ascension had come at the tremendous loss of human life. Turf wars between Chicago gangs had caused roughly 700 gang-related deaths from 1920 to 1930. By some estimates, Capone had been directly or indirectly responsible for over 200 murders, the most notorious of which was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in February 1929, a shootout that had killed seven men from a rival gang. The brutality, efficiency, and wealth of Capone's organization demonstrated the destructive forms of American entrepreneurship in the early 20th century.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Crime and Corruption; Games, Gaming, and Gambling; Business History; United States; Chicago;

Citation:

Nicholas, Tom, and David Chen. "Al Capone." Harvard Business School Case 809-144, April 2009. (Revised March 2012.)