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Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco Paperback – Bargain Price, June 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060536357
  • ASIN: B000GH2YL0
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of three previous books.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
Definition of a page-turner, loved it.
John O'marra
The authors do a great job of bringing the rest of the fantasy world to life with welcome doses of color and wit.
Bill Slocum
This book is an eye opener about the greed in Wall street, and the modus operandi of the leveraged buyout hawks.
Patrick Omeke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. T. Sullivan on February 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Barbarians at the Gate is a classic of the business book genre, and with the private equity boom we have seen in the last couple of years, it is still as relevant as it was when it came twenty years ago. It is the story or some extremely unlikable rich people brought low by equally unsavory, but much smarter rich people, and it gives you an inside feel for the major wall street deal like no other book can.

Barbarians at the Gate is the story of an attempt to take RJR Nabisco private, and then the series of take over attempts that were instigated by the original privatization plan. Johnson, the CEO of RJR, comes off as pompous, full of himself, and not very smart. He's like a frat boy who makes it by glad handing people and buying rounds of drinks. Kravis, of legendary private equity firm KKR, comes off like a financier god. Brilliant, pushy, and beyond your puny human morals. Guess who gets the company in the end.

A must read for anyone interested in modern Wall Street.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on February 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
The mantra "Greed is good" was uttered by that 1980s paragon of Wall Street virtue, Gordon Gekko, yet it could just have easily been any one profiled in this mind-warping 1990 account of the leveraged buyout (LBO) of cigarette-and-cookie conglomerate RJR Nabisco, starting with RJR's chief executive, Ross Johnson.

Johnson was the one who first saw the benefits of taking RJR's undervalued stock private, boosting both his wealth and control. Small economies were not for him.

"I'm telling you, we're not going to start running a pushcart operation here," he tells his LBO partners at the outset. "I don't want a bunch of your guys coming around saying we should have five jets instead of six."

Those jets, used strictly by Johnson and his C-suite buddies for such emergencies as shuttling Johnson's beloved pet dog to safety after it bit someone, were one of many symbols of Johnson excess. Just as odd were his stabs at practicality, like introducing a smokeless cigarette, "Premier", which drew like chalk and tasted worse.

Authors Bryan Burroughs and John Helyar, who covered the story in 1988 for the Wall Street Journal, seem to have been everywhere at once, and show no sign of suffering from lack of access. Whether it's LBO king and Johnson nemesis Henry Kravis, other bidding groups led by First Boston and Forstmann Little, or the RJR management board, everyone seems well represented. One gets the feeling some of these people enjoyed the chance to tell of their small part in one of the biggest stories of the decade.

Yet nothing seemed on the level here, least of all the money put up by the bidders, which had a heavy reliance on junk bonds. Numbers themselves made no sense.
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Format: Paperback
The Introduction to this 1990 book states, "This book arose from the authors' coverage in The Wall Street Journal of the fight to control RJR Narisco ... Our goal in pursuing the story behind those public events has been to meet the standard of accuracy and general excellence that the Journal sets for journalists' everywhere... Those looking in these pages for a definitive judgment on the impact of leveraged buyouts in the American economy will no doubt be disappointed. It is the authors' contention that some companies are well suited for the rigors of an LBO, while others are not... it is important to remember that an LBO is a creature of time. In most cases its success or failure can't be determined for three, four, five, or even seven years. The events in this book constitute the birth of an LBO; at this writing, the reborn RJR Nabisco is barely a year old. The baby looks healthy, but it's too soon to predict its ultimate fate." (Pg. ix-x) [Of course, the company was defunct by 1999, or earlier.] [NOTE: page numbers refer to the 528-page paperback edition.]

The authors explain when CEO F. Ross Johnson proposed an LBO to the Board, "Everyone in the room knew about leveraged buyouts... In an LBO, a small group of senior executives, usually working with a Wall Street partner, proposed to buy its company from public shareholders, using massive amounts of borrowed money. Critics of this procedure called it stealing the company from its owners and fretted that the mountain of corporate debt was hindering America's ability to compete abroad. Everyone knew LBOs meant deep cuts in research and every other imaginable budget, all sacrificed to pay off debt. Proponents insisted that companies forced to meet steep debt payments grew lean and mean.
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