In 1929, William Van Alen designed a building for Chrysler.

He wanted it to be the tallest and most beautiful building in the world.

But several dozen blocks away The Bank of Manhattan wanted to put up a building too.

And they wanted theirs to be the tallest in the world.

The architect on The Bank of Manhattan building was Craig Severance.

He had been in a partnership with William Van Alen, but now they were bitter rivals.

Severance originally intended his building to be 840 feet tall.

An unheard of 67 stories.

Then he found out that Van Alen was going to make the Chrysler Building 925 feet tall.

Which would make it bigger than his.

So Severance quickly added four more stories to his building, making it an incredible 71 stories.

But more importantly it would be 927 feet tall.

Two feet more than The Chrysler Building.

As each side built at a furious pace, they watched each other with binoculars.

From downtown Manhattan to midtown Manhattan.

Each side wanting to be the first and the tallest.

Finally, in April, The Bank of Manhattan was finished.

And it was the tallest building in the entire world.

For a month.

Because, as they stood on their building, toasting their success, they looked across at the Chrysler Building.

Something strange was happening.

The top of the Chrysler Building gradually opened up and a needle-like spire began to appear.

Inch by inch it grew upwards.

Getting wider and wider as it went.

Higher and higher until it was over a hundred feet tall.

And it was finally bolted in place on top of The Chrysler Building.

Making The Chrysler Building 1,048 feet tall.

A hundred and twenty feet taller than The Bank of Manhattan building.

It came as complete shock to everyone.

The architect, William Van Alen, had the spire built in secret in Germany.

Then he had it shipped in four separate parts to Manhattan.

Then he secretly assembled it inside the lift shaft of the Chrysler Building.

Which meant he could gradually hoist it the entire height inside the building.

Without anyone seeing it.

He didn’t want his opposition to know anything about it until it was too late.

He wanted them to carry on thinking they were building the world’s tallest building.

Then, once they’d finished the job.

Once they’d let all the workmen go.

Once they were celebrating with champagne.

Once it was too late to do anything about it.

Then he erected the gleaming pinnacle into place in front of them.


Machiavelli knew all about predatory thinking.

In 1513 he wrote “No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.”