robber baron

noun
1.
History/Historical. a noble who robbed travelers passing through his lands.
2.
a ruthlessly powerful U.S. capitalist or industrialist of the late 19th century considered to have become wealthy by exploiting natural resources, corrupting legislators, or other unethical means.

Origin:
1875–80

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

robber barons definition


A term applied to certain leading American businessmen of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. The term suggests that they acquired their wealth by means more often foul than fair.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
We are living through a second gilded age with our own robber barons at the
  controls.
It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral
  busybodies.
Clearly these media conglomerates are the robber barons of our era.
One needn't look to the robber barons for the vicious face of capitalism.
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