Finance: Black Bart's Red Ink

Bart Lytton, 55, mercurial multimillionaire boss of Los Angeles' Lytton Financial Corp., has never been noted for modesty. "I am the most successful businessman in this decade in the U.S.," he once observed. "The only ism for me is narcissism. If I cared about my image, I'd never do the gutty things I do, or say the things I say. The day I turn mellow, I hope they melt me."

Lytton has made a career of living up to that flamboyant self-assessment. While competitors derisively nicknamed him "Black Bart," and grew apoplectic at...

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