The Billionaire Who Is Planning His 125th Birthday
by Frank Bruni
Excerpt from a story published in the March 6, 2011 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
(Link to original story)
One morning in early January, David Murdock awoke to an unsettling sensation. At first he didn’t recognize it and then he couldn’t believe it, because for years — decades, really — he maintained what was, in his immodest estimation, perfect health. But now there was this undeniable imperfection, a scratchiness and swollenness familiar only from the distant past. Incredibly, infuriatingly, he had a sore throat.
“I never have anything go wrong,” he said later. “Never have a backache. Never have a headache. Never have anything else.” This would make him a lucky man no matter his age. Because he is 87, it makes him an unusually robust specimen, which is what he must be if he is to defy the odds (and maybe even the gods) and live as long as he intends to. He wants to reach 125, and sees no reason he can’t, provided that he continues eating the way he has for the last quarter century: with a methodical, messianic correctness that he believes can, and will, ward off major disease and minor ailment alike.
(From page 4):
The institute and hotel are meant to turn a profit — and do, a small one — and they underscore how interconnected Murdock’s evangelism and business interests have become. As does the research campus. Dole is the world’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables, so studies into their health benefits have a huge potential upside for the company. Many of the foods under the microscope are foods Dole sells.
Blueberries, for example. Murdock lured Mary Ann Lila, a world-renowned blueberry authority, to the research campus from the University of Illinois, where, she says, she simply didn’t have anything like the instant access to specialized equipment that Murdock has made possible. The campus has a particularly impressive lineup of high-powered nuclear magnetic-resonance machines, which analyze compounds on a molecular level. Lila — technically affiliated now with North Carolina State University — and colleagues are using the fastest of these to look for the unknown natural compounds in blueberries that will speed their efforts to maximize the fruit’s medicinal properties. They believe blueberries could help combat several diseases, including obesity.