Dealing With “Conspirators” and Other Dealers

    In the early 1920s the Millars and Wilder also began exhibiting more flexibility toward De Beers and the international diamond cartel, usually known collectively as the “syndicate.” They remained suspicious of Sam Reyburn:  by mid 1922 the elder Millar and Wilder thought that Arkansan probably was financed by the syndicate, which they thought wanted to buy control of the entire diamond field.[1]  Yet, Wilder and both Millars considered the syndicate’s intrusion fortunate if they could get enough money from it to solve their predicament.

    In one drawn-out affair, the trio thought they had gotten into indirect negotiations with the syndicate.  This was in April-June 1921, when Austin Millar and his lawyer went to New York City for conferences with a Dutchman named Waterschoot van der Gracht, a promoter trying to put together a deal consolidating control of the big Arkansas pipe—an idea especially appealing to the elder Millar.  After van der Gracht identified himself as a representative of Ladenburg, Thallmann & Company, financiers, Wilder and Austin Millar suspected De Beers was orchestrating the affair, probably while working with Reyburn to reorganize the ADC and, through it, bring the entire pipe under the syndicate’s control.[2]  At one point Howard advised his father, “If you have to be dominated by foreign Jews, sell them and make them pay.” [3]

    Howard Millar was willing to negotiate with the syndicate on his own terms.  One of three things was imperative, he told his father:  First, the Millars had to retain “Absolute control” if the syndicate only invested in their operation; Second, “Sale for cash consideration”; Third, “Sale for cash and stock consideration.”[4]

    Before long, however, it was evident the Millars had gotten into another dead end.  In New York, Austin grew weary and yearned for the comfort of home.  Howard, Wilder, and other close associates sensed something was amiss.  Finally, after all their effort and expense, the deal collapsed; Van der Gracht could not accept some of the group’s stipulations.[5]


    In their report to shareholders July 30, 1921, those heading the Kimberlite Diamond Mining and Washing Company simplified matters a bit when saying they had turned down “many proposals” for acquiring company properties.  Although they had contacted a number of agents trying to put together deals, and in at least one instance had attempted to persuade financial interests in London, there is no evidence those efforts yielded a bona fide offer.[6]



[1] The issue of syndicate control was reintroduced during the van der Gracht affair (infra), and then was immediately advanced by W. L. Wilder (W. L. Wilder, Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York, Chicago office, to Austin Millar, May 8, 1922, I.N; Wilder managed the company’s bonding department).  Wilder’s basic suspicion:  Van der Gracht was involved with De Beers in a scheme to not only control Reyburn, but also to buy control of the Millar’s property at a low price because of the current financial squeeze.  A later example:  W. L. Wilder to Bennett C. Clark, August 17, 1927, Correspondence, I.W, Crater.


[2] There is extensive correspondence on the topic in I.X and I.N, involving the Millars, Buckley (Austin’s lawyer), and Wilder, from early April into mid-May.  W.A.J.M van Waterschoot van der Gracht, New York, to Austin Millar, Chicago, April 30, 1922, I.X, is the Dutchman’s basic, four-page analysis and proposal.


[3] Howard Millar to Austin Millar, New York, May 5, 1922, I.N.


[4] Ibid.


[5] W. van der Gracht to Austin Millar, May 9, 1922, I.X.


[6] Report on Chicago conference, July 30, 1921, p. 1, with update covering the following year, V.B.9, Crater archive.  The updates were to become an annual report, but ended as the flurry of activity in 1921-1922 diminished.  


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