EXCLUSIVE: Millionaire Woolen Baron Puts Bullet in Own Head - Amid Fears His Fortune Was Already SQUANDERED
- A rep said in a statement: 'William Madison Wood, Sr, 67, died suddenly in Daytona, Florida, where he was vacationing with his wife.
- Was forced out of American Woolen Company last year after founding the company twenty-five years ago
- Company lost millions of dollars in his last year at the helm as fashions changed
- Supposedly never recovered from the death of his oldest son and heir apparent, William Wood Jr., in a car crash in 1922
- Will be buried in Shawsheen Village, the olde country towne he built in Andover, Mass. for his executives
- Had his chauffer drive to an unfrequented stretch of highway, then walked around a bend, placed a .38-caliber revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger
- Wood made his fortune organizing and then running the American Woolen Company for twenty five years - it has sixty mills.
- He leaves behind four mansions in Andover, Mass., Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Palm Springs and Cuttyhunk, Mass.
William Madison Wood, 67, former head and founder of the woolen trust known as the American Woolen Company, died of a bullet wound to the head in an apparent suicide in Daytona, Florida, where he was vacationing with his wife. He was apparently distraught about the loss of control of the company last year, after he was forced out when the company lost $6 million dollars. Said a close friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity, “On the morning of February 2nd, Wood ordered his limousine. Accompanied only by his valet, Augustine Fredrickson, and his chauffeur, Joseph A. Beaulieu, he drove to an unfrequented stretch of highway. Directing his servants to remain in the car, he walked around a curve in the road. He placed a .38-caliber revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger.”
A friend of the family, speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com said: 'His family are in shock.'
It is not clear at this point how Wood got access to the revolver that killed him. However, he was known to be armed ever since anarchists and radicals had threatened his life, calling him "an oppressor of the working man."
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Official portrait of William Madison Wood, born June 18, 1858 in Edgartown, Mass. to poor immigrants from the Azores Islands of Portugal
Wood owned numerous mansions, including his home in Andover, Mass. that he named 'Arden'. It was built by John Dove, partner in the Smith & Dove flax manufacturing firm in Frye Village, built 1847. Wood purchased it in 1891 and extensively refurbished the place.
This is a photo of Mr. Wood while he was still President of the American Woolen Company, which he ran with an iron hand. Said one source "Two secretaries took his rapid-fire dictation. A bank of phones kept him in touch with his staff of executives spread throughout New England and New York. In a single hour, Wood could issue enough orders and directives to keep his key assistants busy for a week. A limousine was always standing by to whisk him to any trouble spot in the vast organization. He admitted that without the telephone and the automobile his task would have been well-nigh impossible." He died of an apparent suicide at age 67.
The American Woolen Company gained noteriety for its poor treatment of workers, who had to strike in 1912 to get a living wage, and again in 1919. As of late, while the company made fat profits, they received benefits like life insurance and profit sharing. However, all that changed in 1924 when the company lost millions and Wood was forced to retire.
It is unknown what will happen to Wood's pet projects, including the Shawsheen Indians soccer team, which won the national championship last year.
As soon as Wood resigned as President of the wool trust, the new management moved company headquarters out of Shawsheen Village, the quaint town Wood had built and forced his managers to live in.
Poor background, doting wife
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Ellen Wheaton Ayer, the daughter of his former boss and then business partner, Frederick Ayer, and two children, Cornelius and Rosalind. He is predecesed by son William Jr. and daughter Irene.
He was born in Edgartown, Massachusetts to poor Portuguese immigrants from the Azores.
In addition to his fame as a baron of the woolen industry, he is known for the court case pending against him in which he may be required to pay income tax instead of his company paying it for him (Old Colony Trust Co. v. Commissioner)
Since 1924, the price of preferred and common stock has fallen precipitously, and it is not known how much wealth the family still has.
Wood Mill in Lawrence, Mass., the largest cloth manufacturing facility in the world, employs 3,500 people - built and named after Mr. Wood
According to the family friend, Wood's family have alreadt drawn up plans to sell some of the mansions and the property he still owned in Shawsheen Village.
Rosalind says she may have to go to work to make ends meet.
His body is expected to be buried in Andover, Mass.
A confidante of A confidante said that Wood had recently suffered a stroke and had been prone to violent outbursts of anger.
He also was rumored to have told his doctor 'life is not worth living' a few weeks before the suicide.
'Between the loss of his business empire, his son and his health, he was ready to throw in the towel.' said the confidant.
The world has lost a true visionary, it is a shame it had to come to this.
Because of his involvement in the 1912 strike, where he was rumored to be behind the dynamite plot in the city of Lawrence, Mass where his mills were located, he was targeted by radicals in the 1919 Red Scare. Postal authorities intercepted a bomb in a package addressed to him at his headquarters. Other recipients of similar bombs, also foiled, included John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
A New York Times newspaper article about the death of William M. Wood, Jr. in an automobile accident on the Andover-Reading road. The elder Mr. Wood was said to be unconsoleable about the death. “Dad was never the same again. He remained oppressed with sorrow,” his son Cornelius Wood recalled. “His temper became uncontrollable,” says his younger son. “He muttered ominously to himself.” ]
Cornelius Wood, the surviving son, possesses his father's swarthy complexion.
Not close to his father; sentimental about his past
He was never close to his father, who died when Wood was young, but doted on his mother, Amelia Madison, whose father was an English merchant. Wood bought her a mansion to live in.
He also supported a number of his siblings and was known to be very generous with his friends.
Wood was very sentimental about his success. He purchased Cuttyhunk Island, six miles off Martha’s Vineyard, possibly for sentimental reasons. A 1959 article surmised that he did it because his father, a fisherman, had taken him there. Here he built his second summer home in 1913.