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Le Deal: How a Young American, in Business, in Love, and in Over His Head, Kick-Started a Multibillion Dollar Industry in Europe Hardcover – August 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312359039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312359034
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This mélange of memoir, travel-writing and business blueprint chronicles the author's attempt to set up shop in Europe after the catastrophic crash of his American business. Having mortgaged his house and other assets to finance his move to Paris, the author embarks on trying to interest Europeans in his scheme of shopping malls specializing in imperfect and off-season designer goods. He runs into unanticipated obstacles: a backlash against American developers due to the failure of Euro Disneyland, organized opposition from existing retailers, a national political movement against hypermarkets, complex zoning and property laws—not to mention his unfamiliarity with the French language and business customs. Murphy perseveres and manages to get several centers open—all of which are spectacular successes with shoppers and manufacturers. A slapdash collage of genres, the book also includes a mild thriller subplot concerning a rival development company and some even milder romance. While smoothly written, the book suffers from an unfocused narrative and the author's grating insistence in emphasizing his naïveté. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

<DIV><DIV>From the Wall Street Journal</DIV><DIV>We first meet J. Byrne Murphy in the early 1990s. The real-estate development firm he works for falls victim to the S&L crisis, and he finds himself in desperate need of a job. Along comes an idea that sends him across the Atlantic: MacArthurGlen, a pioneer of retail outlets in the U.S., wants to try out its franchise in Europe.

The Continent is home to great luxury brands, but it has none of those out-of-the-way "outlet malls" -- so familiar to American suburbanites -- that allow retailers to clear their stocks and give consumers big names at a huge discount. Surely Europeans will flock to outlet malls, too, if given the chance. At least that is Mr. Murphy's reasoning, and he is a young, can-do American straight from central casting.

"Le Deal" is Mr. Murphy's picaresque memoir of a decade of dealmaking in Europe, most memorably in France, as he tries to scout out commercial sites, partner with local developers, meet the demands of politicians and bureaucrats, and generally bring a fresh idea to a place not exactly ready for it. It is a tale fraught with frustration and filled with insight.

In London, a high-end retailer hints at the trouble to come. "Surely, you're joking," he says to Mr. Murphy when he hears of the outlet-mall idea. One simply "doesn't do" that sort of thing in Europe, he says. Mr. Murphy hears such comments a lot in the course of his business travels. In France, a real-estate consultant tells him that outlet malls "will not work here." Days after Mr. Murphy moves his family to Paris, the French prime minister announces a moratorium on the construction of retail developments anywhere in France. At the time, a surge in supermarkets was hurting the business of long-time shop owners.

Like other new arrivals in a foreign country, Mr. Murphy struggles with the basics -- like getting a residency permit (his only comes through years later, after he has moved to London) and opening a bank account. But "Le Deal" is not an update on "An American in Paris." Mr. Murphy's job takes him deeper into the French bush than most Americans will ever go. He travels from town to town looking for the best spots for his "outlet centers." Along the way, he repeatedly mispronounces Nike in French, rendering the name in a way that suggests fornication instead of sportswear.

To a naïve outsider, a new mall nearby a far-flung French town would seem to be a desirable thing, promising jobs, tax revenues and products that residents might want to buy. But merely to broach the possibility, Mr. Murphy found in his travels, required him to participate in "le minuet," an intricate supplicatory dance with a town mayor or local official.

An amiable chat about everything but the matter at hand would begin at an administerial office, typically in the late morning, over a glass or two of the local vintage. The "meeting" would then move to a restaurant for a long lunch, during which more of the good stuff would be poured, accompanying several courses. Finally a moment would come between cheese and dessert for the making of a formal pitch. (To raise something so base as business any time earlier would be uncouth.) "Unfortunately," Mr. Murphy confesses, describing his early minuet days, "by the time the great moment arrived I was word-slurring, lazy-eyed, nonlistening drunk." Eventually he learned to keep his head after several glasses of wine, a useful skill on any continent. He learned, too, about the Cartesian way of thinking -- studying a problem for a long time and declining to act on it.

Politicians cause Mr. Murphy the biggest headaches. They put one obstacle after another in his way. It takes years for him --Wall Street Journal

to get a green light for his first big retail center -- in Troyes, about 90 miles southeast of Paris. "In France," Mr. Murphy writes, "the emphasis is always on job preservation, and not job creation." In short, it is more rational, from the French politician's point of view, to protect small retailers or established guilds than to open up opportunities. After all, the potential workers at new stores -- let alone would-be customers -- aren't organized. They are not about to march in the streets or kill off re-election hopes. And yet when the mall in Troyes finally opens -- what do you know? --t's a success. The French, it turns out, are not that different from Americans: For a bargain, they will travel long distances and stand in line for hours.

In Germany, Mr. Murphy faces similar resistance from the political class. He meets the premier of Lower Saxony, a certain Gerhard Schroeder (the future German chancellor), who studies MacArthurGlen's plans for an outlet center. Over cigars, Mr. Schroeder tells Mr. Murphy and his American colleagues: "I'll kill it. I will have to." He persuades them to withdraw a pending bid for a mall site by promising, privately, that he'll back them after he gets through an upcoming election. But after the election, naturally, he reneges. In Italy, Mr. Murphy finds the challenge to be no less difficult though of a slightly different character: He must maneuver around mafia-types and Italy's nonfunctional state to get a shopping center open.

"Le Deal" ends happily, however. MacArthurGlen has 11 centers in Europe now, employing 8,000 people and boasting a billion dollars in annual sales. "We had not only created a new concept and a new company in Europe," Mr. Murphy writes triumphantly, "but in fact created a new multibillion-dollar industry." So what did he learn? There is no "Europe," he says. There is instead "a collection of economically competing regions." In most of them a no-can-do attitude is all too prevalent, blocking entrepreneurship and protecting entrenched interests. But perseverance can pay off. As Mr. Murphy shows in his entertaining chronicle, it is possible, even in the Old World, to close "le deal" and make something new.
Matthew Kaminski</DIV></DIV> --Wall Street Journal

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Stabler on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In LE DEAL, real-estate developer Bynre Murphy relates his struggle to extend an American retail innovation -- outlet malls offering iconic apparel brands at deep discounts -- to a skeptical and change-averse Old World.

Murphy's saga is set in motion by the savings and loan crisis that devastated the US commercial real-estate market in 1992. His small but successful Washington, DC-based development company was wiped out, and Murphy and his boss find themselves clinging to the only asset their company retains -- licensing rights to open McArthur Glen retail outlet centers in Europe.

As Murphy explains to a long succession of French mayors, councilmen, administrators, and permit-granters, McArthur Glen has a stellar track record in the US, and its concept will be "win-win-win" in France:

- French shoppers will get 40-60% discounts on sought-after brands like Versace, Nike, Gucci, and Calvin Klein;

- the brands will be able to monetize their end-of-season inventory instead of writing it off; and

- the downtown merchants and restaurants will benefit from shoppers visiting from afar who need a place to refuel and buy what they couldn't find at the outlet. It's a no-brainer, right?

Umm... non.

As the presentations, setbacks, hearings, and appeals drag on for months, Murphy begins to understand the true nature of what he and McArthur Glen are up against as they try to gain a foothold in France. Any new business concept is viewed first and foremost as a threat to the established commercial order, and only vaguely and secondarily as an opportunity. As the author explains, in France it's all about job preservation, not job creation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The American economy is absolutely dependant on American businesses being able to successfully sell their goods and services abroad. Exports are vital to American economic health and well being. That's why there are so many "how to" books published every year for the American business community and aspiring entrepreneurs seeking success in foreign markets. What is unique about "Le Deal: How A Young American, In Business, In Love, And In Over His Head, Kick-Started A Multibillion Dollar Industry in Europe" is that it combines J. Byrne Murphy's personal story that took him to Europe and Asia where for fifteen years he conducted his business activities with the riveting elements of a true life adventure story. Of special note are the cultural differences he encountered with respect to how business is conducted. For example, the Italians readily agree to new ideas -- but have a tendency to delay implementation of them. The French are cautious about accepting new ideas and examine every aspect of the concept to extraordinary lengths before implementing them. The Germans (no surprise) are rigid about following rules no matter how outdated and in need of revision they may be. All this contrasts sharply with Americans who tend to move quickly and easily get frustrated when having to deal with other cultures and their approaches to business decision making. Very highly recommended reading, "Le Deal" is a real life case study that combines a fascinating personal story with entrepreneurial and corporate insights that will well serve any who aspire to engage in commerce abroad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark E. Scully on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
J. Byrne Murphy has written a very rare "business" book. It is a personal story first, with humor and many subtle points about life and business and morals that are all tied together at the end. Very well written. Could not put it down. As a real estate developer who experiences these same struggles it was an inspiration and reminder that we do what we do for love, family, and for life.
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