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BookWatch: 7 money-making lessons from the richest man who ever lived

Jacob Fugger was a German banker who financed kings, explorers, bishops and popes — and along the way made the biggest fortune ever amassed by a business person.

The grandson of a peasant, he persuaded Leo X to legalize for-profit lending. One of his money-making schemes provoked Martin Luther to write the 95 Theses and kick off the Reformation. He played kingmaker in the 1519 election for Holy Roman Emperor. Jacob (Jakob in German) Fugger and his money gave the vote to Charles V of Spain and put Charles atop an empire as big as Napoleon’s.

Fugger was worth about $400 billion in current dollars at the time of his death in 1525 — or 2% of Europe’s GDP at the time.

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