This ill-advised chimera of publicly-traded company and national economy would eventually result in massive inflation, which in turn triggered a bank run, at which point Law was forced to explain they didn’t have the gold and silver to pay back people looking to sell their shares. This ended in another massive financial crisis and the second country to exile Law. (The first was for killing a guy in Scotland.)
Dutch East India Company: $8.28 Trillion
Finally, at number one, Big Poppa itself. The most valuable company of all time, and it’s not exactly a photo finish. In the year 1602, the seed that would eventually blossom into some highly problematic foliage was planted with the founding of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or the Dutch East India Company. An absolute juggernaut built on the spice and slave trade in the East Indies, ended up becoming a cautionary tale about the absolute corruption caused by absolute power. The Dutch East India Company also has a particularly questionable feather in its cap, especially given how things turned out: It was one of the first ever companies to offer shares for public purchase, effectively creating the modern idea of the IPO and stocks.
It might have been the only stock to own, but it was also a good one: To this day, the Dutch East India Company holds the crown of the highest valuation ever, reaching $8.28 trillion. Compared to the Mississippi Company or South Sea Company, the Dutch East India Company wasn’t nearly as short-lived or speculative. It genuinely was one of the most successful business enterprises in the history of the world, and had a hand in innumerable modern economic developments. This was, as it usually is, built on the backs of many that didn’t profit at all, but that’s never the shareholders’ problem!
What was a serious problem was — and you’re never going to believe this — corruption among officials? In a company this successful? Color me gobsmacked! They would even be carried in palanquins in Bengal, almost never the form of transportation chosen by anyone particularly trustworthy. In the end, after a roughly 200-year run, the Dutch East India Company was dissolved, putting an end to the most successful business of all time.