(p. 146) In 1885, three years after the start of service at Pearl Street, a director of the company who chose to remain anonymous complained to the Philadelphia Press that Edison insisted on taking an active part in the management of the company “although he is not a bit of a business man.” He gave an example of Edison’s poor judgment: Edison had proposed installing a new cable in Manhattan that would cost nearly $30,000 a mile, oblivious to the fact that Western Union had one with similar capacity in operation that had only cost $500 a mile. “If he would leave it to practical business men to make money out of it and stick to his inventions,” the director said, “the company would in time become very rich.”
For Edison, “sticking to his inventions” full-time would mean relinquishing control of Edison Electric, which was anathema. Managing his company did not engage him half as much as creating it, but he could not bring himself to let go of the captain’s chair. Edison’s intellectual interests, however, wandered from one minor project to the next. He had always done best when attempting something both entirely new and gargantuan in scale, but in the mid-1880s he could not find a suitable project.
Stross, Randall E. The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007.
(Note: italics in original.)