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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: Harper Paperbacks (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: #265,782 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

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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 Slokes 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
Definition of a page-turner, loved it. The authors got so much out of their interview subjects, the personal thoughts and dialog left you feeling like you were a part of these negotiations. They portrayed everyone even-handedly when it was probably tempting to make villains out of Ross Johnson or Henry Kravis. Extremely entertaining, a first class example of literary non-fiction.
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