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After the Ball: Gilded Age Secrets, Boardroom Betrayals, and the Party That Ignited the Great Wall Street Scandal of 1905 Hardcover – July 29, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (July 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060199393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060199395
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1905 battle for control of the Equitable Life Assurance Society strikingly parallels the corporate scandals that dominate headlines a century later. For example, majority shareholder James Hazen Hyde, accompanied by a team of corporate lawyers, told an investigating committee he'd authorized questionable deals on the advice of executives whom he had trusted, while James W. Alexander, who sought to kick Hyde off the board, complained he was being punished for blowing the whistle on the company's shaky finances. But, as Beard, who's written for Elle and Mirabella, ably shows, Hyde didn't resemble any modern-day CEO-more like several of them rolled into one. Inheriting his position while still a bachelor in his 20s, he was a fixture on New York's society pages, arguably more famous for his wardrobe and love of high-speed carriage racing than for his job. The titular ball was an all-night costume party, complete with a private theatrical performance, with a price tag of at least $50,000. That's even more expensive than it sounds; the failure to compare dollars in 1905 and 2003 is one of the book's few flaws. With a vivid cast of supporting characters, including some of America's greatest financial titans, this lively history offers all the vicarious thrills of family drama and boardroom intrigue without making readers apprehensive about their own investment portfolios. 24 b&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The year, 1905. The setting, New York City. Flamboyant heir to the controlling interest in Equitable Life Assurance Society, James Hazen Hyde becomes the central figure in a financial scandal that shocks the country. The media's intense coverage discloses the corporate secrets of financial manipulation, and policyholders are enraged. When Hyde's father died in 1899, he assumed the elder Hyde's duties at Equitable and believed his responsibilities were a sacred trust. Yet his playboy inclinations were on display at his opulent costume ball in 1905, and false charges followed that Equitable was billed for that extravagance. Those charges led to a series of discoveries resulting in a major corporate scandal, and Hyde fled to Paris where he made a place for himself in cultural circles. The author draws parallels to the financial excesses recently revealed at Enron and Worldcom and shows us how the system at Equitable almost 100 years ago was rigged with techniques similar to those used today. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
Sad, but very well done!
David A. Bede
In her latest book, Ms. Beard chronicles the pivotal event in the young life of James Hyde, heir apparent to the Equitable Life Assurance Society empire.
Steven K. Szmutko
This is a good book for readers interested in business history as well as viewing the lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy a hundred years ago.
Wayne A. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on September 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you followed Enron, Worldcom, the conspicuous consumptions of Donald Trump or any of the other seamier of capitalism's excesses over the last several decades, this book will show you that history was repeating itself. In fact, comparing the ostentatious displays of wealth and brutal no-holds-barred corporate infighting between then (1900) and now, our capitalists sound like mere echoes of men who defined the terms "Gilded Age" and "Robber Barons."
Patricia Beard, in "After the Ball" has used the events and people surrounding the Equitable Life Assurance Society to illustrate a bygone era of business and living at the top level of wealthy society. In addition to dissecting a nasty takeover corporate takeover attempt well, Ms. Beard writes in a way that holds the reader's attention.
The Equitable was one of the big three life insurance companies at the dawn of the 20th Century. Important to policy holders because life insurance was the only means of support available at the time if the man of the house died with dependants, it was important to Wall Street because the premiums sat in a vast cash pool and were available to finance much of our industrial growth of the period. The Equitable had been created by one man, Henry Hyde, who grew it from a store-front business to vast size in the forty years after the Civil War. Henry Hyde was a founder, a decisive man who knew his business, could make decisions and had the respect of his company officers as well as his fellows.
His son, James Hazen Hyde, had none of his father's characteristics and had not been schooled by his doting parent in the arts that would be necessary to run the Equitable when it was his turn.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steven K. Szmutko VINE VOICE on August 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
AFTER THE BALL is a well-written reminder that the more things change, especially in the business world, the more they remain the same. With simple contextual shifts, the story could have easily appeared in an MSNBC/CNN feeding frenzy today rather than as a distant - albeit poignant - episode during the final throes of America's Gilded Age.
Patricia Beard has been an editor of several major magazines and is the author of several books including GROWING UP REPUBLICAN: CHRISTIE WHITMAN, THE POLITICS OF CHARACTER and GOOD DAUGHTERS: LOVING OUR MOTHERS AS THEY AGE. The latter is a well-regarded exploration of changing relationships between mothers and daughters as they journey through the aging process. In her latest book, Ms. Beard chronicles the pivotal event in the young life of James Hyde, heir apparent to the Equitable Life Assurance Society empire. While one of the most fascinating watershed event in corporate and governmental righteousness, the story also serves as a harbinger to the whirlwind circling about a perception of scandal as various individuals with distinct agendas respond to that perception. Written in the style of a finely honed historical novel, AFTER THE BALL provides the reader with a detailed tapestry of turn-of-the-century upper class society. The "Ball" as a tipping point, can be seen as a metaphor for the perceptual demarcation between the excesses of the old from the social idealism (or perhaps the idealistic rhetoric) of new, more "moral" commerce. Hyde appears as the sacrificial lamb, an embodiment of corporate greed and excess (there are similarities to the movie "Wall Street," Gordon Gecko and Bud Fox).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David A. Bede on March 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A well-researched history book that reads like a novel is a rare find, but this is one. In an era when corporate greed and corruption are once again a part of everyday life, it's also a nice reminder of where years of deregulation and laissez-faire policies got us last time. James Hazen Hyde was a product of that time: spoiled, overly entitled, shamelessly extravagant in a city where poverty was widespread, and fond of business practices that have since been made illegal. But he was also the victim of even greedier - and smarter - associates, and Beard does a great job of portraying a rather unsympathetic character sympathetically.

Hyde's downfall seems to have been a lack of ambition or interest in learning the business he inherited, coupled with an overeagerness to reap the benefits of his father's financial success. Illustrating the latter is the party that serves as the book's climax, an incomprehensibly extravagant affair by the standards of any era. Beard argues that Hyde's detractors had already been hoping for years to bring him down, and the ball simply served as a welcome excuse to do so. Whether she's right or wrong about that, the event certainly proved to be fertile ground for scandal. In a classic case of "the truth is never juicy enough," rumors began circulating that Hyde had paid for the ball with company funds (he hadn't) and that the already-obscene cost was four times as much as it really was. Despite being guilty of nothing worse than bad taste, Hyde was soon bought out of his father's company and out of Wall Street society. Investigations and reform legislation followed, but those who were guilty of real wrongdoing were never punished.
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