Sam Zemurray was the head of the Cuyamel Fruit Company, one of the larger banana companies, and one of United Fruit’s largest competitors. The two companies owned land in Honduras and Guatemala, with a buffer zone between them. However, Zemurray wanted to expand, and decided to purchase this formerly neutral land. This aggressive move prompted United Frui to make a grab for the land, too.
But there was a catch. The land had two purported legal owners, and no one could tell who truly owned it. Furthermore, the territory was claimed by both nations.
United Fruit put their lawyers and investigators on the case, in order to determine who the actual owner was, in order that they might purchase the land from the correct individual. It took them months to determine who truly owned the land.
In the meantime, Zemurray had simply met with both individuals separately and purchased the land twice, once from each of them, and beat United Fruit to the prize.