OIL: Sinco Places a Bet

In 1935 Emperor Haile Selassie I made a last desperate effort to forestall an Italian invasion by offering to "rent" as much as half of Ethiopia to a big U.S. or British oil company. An agent for Standard-Vacuum Oil Co. promptly signed up. As such a concession might involve the U.S. in just the kind of international complications the Emperor wanted, the State Department forbade Standard to take it up. But Ethiopian oil rights still looked like a plum.

Last week, shrewd, poker-faced Harry Ford ("Sinco") Sinclair, 69, President of Sinclair Oil Corp., grabbed it. From Haile Selassie he...

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