Featured photo: Illustration made by Jorge Maturino

In its most recent installment of its “Billionaires” series, Forbes magazine profiled Roy Carroll, the richest man in the Triad (probably) and the only one who owns a superyacht (again, probably).

The story is rife with typical myth-building tropes: how he bought his first house at 14 with money saved up from mowing lawns, how he dropped out of college, his collection of limited-edition Ferraris and an obligatory reference to Warren Buffet, the patron saint of billionaires everywhere.

There’s no mention of the Rhino Times, the conservative newspaper he rescued from insolvency in 2013, nor is there any word of his recent individual political contributions — about $5,000 each to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, NC Senate President Phil Berger, Greensboro City Council member Zack Matheny and Bill Saffo, the mayor of Wilmington. But these are the things that make him not merely a billionaire — not as rare as they used to be! — but an oligarch.

It’s a pretty fine line between the two, the difference being that billionaires are content just to have more money than they and their descendants could ever hope to possibly spend, while oligarchs, convinced of the superiority conveyed upon them by their many millions, seek to shape the world to be even more favorable to their interests.

For example, Carroll’s hotel/apartment/retail complex in downtown Greensboro would not have happened had the city not granted him a couple blocks of Lindsay Street in 2014, emaciating the traffic pattern in a crowded corner of the city. In 2015, he almost succeeded in reshaping Greensboro City Council with the help of former state Sen. Trudy Wade, ostensibly because the current council wasn’t “business friendly” enough. He eventually backed off of that one — Carroll didn’t get where he is by backing losers. But let’s not forget the hundreds of abandoned Rhino Times boxes strewn across the county, made derelict after the Rhino became an online-only publication in 2018. Those orange monstrosities have been collecting garbage and taking up space on city sidewalks for almost five years.

But I suppose those things only matter here, where he lives in a penthouse 18 floors above Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, as aptly documented by Forbes.

It’s not littering if you’re an oligarch.

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