In 1902, the death of then-family patriarch Eugene duPont left the family company adrift. With no apparent duPont ready or willing to take over leadership of E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company, the elders on the board decided to sell to rival Laflin & Rand.
Despite his stellar performance supporting the military during the Spanish American War, Alfred was considered too young to lead the company. Outraged at the prospect of seeing the family company sold to outsiders, he convinced his cousins, Pierre S. duPont and T. Coleman duPont, to join him in an audacious plan to buy the company.
It was one of the best business deals in American history. The cousins bought the company for $15.4 million—$12 million in notes and 33,000 shares of the reorganized DuPont—and retained ownership of 86,400 shares, valued at $8.6 million. Their out-of-pocket cost at the time of closing was just $700 each for drawing up the legal documents.
Once in control, the duPont trio set about transforming the 100-year-old company from an explosives manufacturer into a more diversified chemical company. They modernized management, built research labs, and marketed new products such as paints, plastics, and dyes.