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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broad reports on 17 entrepreneurs who blew up their businesses
In recent years, serial entrepreneurs and celebrity CEOs have become rock stars, not just of the corporate world but also of society at large. People love to learn about big business mavens, what they do, where they live, what they drive, where they party and who their spouses are. Even more darkly compelling are the bad boy wheelers and dealers who have dramatically...
Published on October 25, 2010 by Rolf Dobelli

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting "Where Are They Now" Mini-Biographies
How They Blew It / 978-0-749-46065-5

Half mini-biography, and half "where are they now" expose, "How They Blew It" provides quick and interesting "start-to-finish" looks at 16 major companies and the CEOs and entrepreneurs that, basically, ran them into the ground with varying degrees of criminal intent and enthusiasm.

Of the 16 companies featured...
Published on July 30, 2010 by Amazon Customer


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting "Where Are They Now" Mini-Biographies, July 30, 2010
This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
How They Blew It / 978-0-749-46065-5

Half mini-biography, and half "where are they now" expose, "How They Blew It" provides quick and interesting "start-to-finish" looks at 16 major companies and the CEOs and entrepreneurs that, basically, ran them into the ground with varying degrees of criminal intent and enthusiasm.

Of the 16 companies featured here (and the 17 entrepreneurs at the helms), each gets about 10-15 pages each, as the authors lightly trip over the rise and fall of the companies, and covers the personality quirks and final resting place of the leaders of the ill-fated company. The overall effect is very light-hearted and superficial - the sort of thing you would get from a "where are they now" magazine article revisiting the crash of the company in retrospect a few years after the fact.

While this is a perfectly valid approach, it does ensure that the vignettes never really rise above a mini-biography/documentary level. Very little effort is put into actually analyzing the behavior of the entrepreneurs who "blew it", and almost zero effort is put into analyzing why so many people - governments, news organizations, and even auditors - were willing to help perpetuate what, in many cases, amount to bald-faced fraud. When the book does attempt to provide "analysis", the effort is painful to behold: the authors flounder frequently into stale gender stereotyping, asserting that men have more "sheer ego" and that, "there appears to be a desire in men, as opposed to women, to leave their DNA footprint on the world"; women, on the other hand, are characterized here as having a "stable business" approach that will "support her and her family".

This stale, tired approach to gender differences in businesses prevents any kind of meaningful look at the societal pressures and impetuses towards business fraud, instead pushing for weak, easy answers - these men, according to the authors, "blew it" simply because they had a bit too much of the Y chromosome. Later, when discussing the Iceland bank crash, the authors will also wonder if a certain entrepreneur's success was due to "similarities with Iceland's Viking past, with mystical powers at work." And, once again, we are reminded in full force of a magazine fluff piece.

For what it is, "How They Blew It" is not a bad piece of work. There are a lot of obscure businesses here - not just the Enrons and the Lehman Brothers of the business world - so if you're desperate to bone up on broken businesses, or if finance is your hobby and you've missed some of these scandals in the last few years, then this collection will serve as a handy refresher on the subject. For a "just the facts" whiz through, "How They Blew It" certainly does the job, and is well written outside of the occasional painful dip into whimsy and speculation, but if you're looking for a more in-depth interpretation on the subject, you will be disappointed.

Basically, "How They Blew It" will answer the superficial "how" by showing you all the houses, ranches, boats, and other luxuries that the entrepreneurs "blew it" all on... but it won't answer the deeper "how" of why they were allowed to get away with it for so long, and how no one ever stepped in to stop them until it was too late.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the Beef?, July 29, 2010
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This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
I pre-ordered this book about a month ago, not expecting to see it until late summer, so I was surprised when it arrived this week. I was also surprised that it's a paperback, but that's certainly no big deal. This book is very easy to read, in part due to its brevity, and the authors certainly write clearly enough. All things considered, however, I was left unsatisfied with this book. Indeed, this is the 36th review I've written for Amazon, and the lowest number of stars I've awarded before this is four. (Okay, I'm an easy grader.) Here are my specific thoughts:

First, let's get to the book's theme. It is a collection of brief (about 10-page) descriptions of 16 entrepreneurs or corporate leaders who achieved great success--and then suffered great failure. Of the 16 subjects, some are well-known and some are not. (That's not a criticism.) The better known subjects include Bernie Ebbers, of WorldCom fame; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Russian oil giant Yukos; Dick Fuld, of Lehman Brothers; Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron; and James Cayne, of Bear Stearns. Fraudsters like Bernie Madoff were not included, because the authors' focus is on people who more legitimately climbed great heights. The idea of studying other people's failures in order not to repeat them ourselves makes perfect sense, but (given my three stars, you knew they'd be a "but") the short chapters on each individual are simply too short. These chapters are more a just-the-facts-ma'am recital of the events surrounding the rise and fall of these entrepreneurs, not so much deeper what-drove-them-to-do-it analyses. After each chapter the authors list their sources, and many of these are newspaper articles. And to me, at least, that what this book's chapters read like--newspaper summaries of how the mighty have fallen. That is, they are heavier on "who, what, where" and lighter on discussions of what might be the more interesting details and motivations surrounding these complex individuals.

The book is not empty of insights. For example, it's interesting how these entrepreneurs change from projecting a cool shrewdness on their way up the ladder of success, to more emotional and illogical behavior on the way down. Also, there is an understandable tendency for these people to believe so deeply in their own success that they sometimes bet the farm on their ability to achieve still more success. That's what Bernie Ebbers did--literally. These are important insights, but my guess is that readers of this book will yearn for considerably more.

In short, this isn't a bad book. If it were, I would have given it one or two stars. But it's not a great book, either, because it's just too superficial. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. Your mileage may vary. Best wishes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Poor Read, August 14, 2010
This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
I normally don't write reviews of books I've read but in this case I'll make an exception. This has to be one of the worse books I've ever read, it would appear the authors read about these individuals online and then wrote a short paragraph on each one. Absolutely no insight or depth on any of the subjects, you could learn as much about these individuals by simply Googling their names. Definitely not worth the price or effort.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Falls short, December 10, 2010
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This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
I bought this book at the airport to shorten the waiting time, its premise sounded quite interesting - to learn from the mistakes of others, so you can prevent them in your own life. Unfortunately, this book falls short on this goal, because it never really rises above describing the rise and fall of those CEOs and entrepreneurs, lacking in-depth explanations why things really capsized, and when they attempt to do so, they only deliver cliches and prejudices. I assume this is due to the fact that the authors relied on newspaper and internet rescources only. I read the first half of the book and won't waste more time on it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All In One Place, November 5, 2010
This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
How They Blew It reads like a who's who of bad business. Whether the result of greed or just plain bad luck, Oliver and Goodwin put together a collection of CEOs and entrepreneurs responsible for some of the most catastrophic business failures.

HTBI includes all the usual suspects: Enron, World Com and Lehman Brothers. However, the U.S.A. bad-boys aren't the only target; other countries, like Russia, Iceland and England also make the cut.

HTBI is a fairly simple retelling of past business transgressions, seemingly culled from the internet and newspapers. Written in a vignette style, the authors give a bit of background on each individual, along with the scope of their business failure.

Void of any additional information or insight, there's nothing new here; which makes How They Blew It more of a collection of convenience than of substance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broad reports on 17 entrepreneurs who blew up their businesses, October 25, 2010
This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
In recent years, serial entrepreneurs and celebrity CEOs have become rock stars, not just of the corporate world but also of society at large. People love to learn about big business mavens, what they do, where they live, what they drive, where they party and who their spouses are. Even more darkly compelling are the bad boy wheelers and dealers who have dramatically blown up their firms through financial chicanery (almost exclusively a male activity; thus, few bad girls of business exist). In this timely yet disturbing book, journalist Jamie Oliver and recruitment expert Tony Goodwin present a rogues' gallery of entrepreneurs and CEOs who have disgraced themselves and destroyed their companies, often trashing the savings of multitudes of innocent bystanders. Some of these guys didn't blow it, exactly, in that they went home plenty rich - but their firms still suffered on their watch. The authors lightly, charmingly depict the lives of these corporate desperados, offering lessons other leaders can draw from their stories. While morbidly fascinating and a bit sensational, the book sometimes loses its edge as it catalogs deals negotiated, firms bought, bad strategies enacted and millions lost. Nonetheless, getAbstract quite enjoys this voyeur's look at how these big shots imploded and how to avoid making the same mistakes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's conclusion is really worth reading, June 22, 2011
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Peter Barrett (Melbourne, VIC AUS) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures (Paperback)
This book is good as it not only explores the mistakes entrepeneurs make but also how the environment they operated in contributed to them. I refer here for example the freeing up of lending to entrepeneurs by Iceland's banks.

However after readng a few chapters you start seeing a common theme.

Thats where the conclusion comes in. Not only does it state the bleeding obvious but mskes some great inferences about their behavouir and what traps entrepeneurs should avoid that I didn't pick up.
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How They Blew It: The CEOs and Entrepreneurs Behind Some of the World's Most Catastrophic Business Failures
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