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Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 20, 2010
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The first real look inside Team Obama due just before the 2010 elections mixes political warfare and big business shakeups in equal proportions, and comes from a uniquely informed source. Steve Rattner is not just the man brought in by the president to save the auto industry, he is a former New York Times financial reporter who also earned a place among the top tier of Wall Street s most informed investment bankers and corporate experts. Now, from his vantage point at the helm of the historic auto-industry intervention, Rattner crafts a tightly plotted narrative of political brinkmanship, corporate mismanagement, and personalities under pressure in a high-stakes clash between Washington and Detroit. He also explains the tough choices he and his team made, working against a ticking clock and facing vocal opposition from free market champions, to keep Chrysler and General Motors in operation.
As the economy faced free fall, Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and economic advisor Larry Summers all revealingly described faced the possibility of more than a million lost jobs and the astonishing wreckage of GM (a nightmare of huge proportions, caused by terrible management) and Chrysler (a company so close to death it was nearly sacrificed). Rattner s book which will take the story up to the fall of 2010 is a gripping account of one of the severest crises of President Obama s first year in office, with lessons relevant for all managers and executives.
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Steven Rattner
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: I am exceptionally proud of the leadership that President Obama and his senior advisers showed in insisting that we do the right thing, as opposed to the expedient thing, and felt that that story deserved to be told.
Q: Most Washington memoirs tend to be either dry policy books or centered on the author’s recollections. How does yours differ?
A: I did not want to write either an unreadable quasi-academic tome or a book about me! So I decided to use my background as a journalist to "report out" the story, extending it to include events before and after my time at the Treasury. I interviewed more than 150 people, covering a period that began with the decision by the Bush administration to provide GM and Chrysler with bridge financing and ended with GM’s filing of its initial public offering and its naming of Dan Akerson as CEO. And I also tried to use my journalistic training to write the book in a lively, engaging manner.
Q: Are there any particular ways that you tried to make the book readable?
A: I tried to bring to life the many interesting characters who were part of this extraordinary restructuring. I came away from my time in Washington with enormous respect for President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, and many others, and I thought readers would be interested in human portraits of these exceptional people. I also got to know the CEOs and other key players in the auto industry and worked hard to also bring them to life for readers.
Q: Most Americans these days have a low opinion of Washington and what goes on there. As a newcomer to government, how did you find your experience?
A: It was eye-opening. On the one hand, because of President Obama’s leadership and because of the existence of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (better known as "TARP"), we were able to successfully restructure these companies using the bankruptcy process and $82 billion of TARP money. But I also learned that the success of the auto effort was quite unusual by Washington standards because almost any other initiative would require congressional approval, and Congress is every bit as dysfunctional as polls suggest Americans believe that it is. If we had had to secure congressional approval of the auto bailout, I have no doubt that at least one or both of the automakers would have ended up running out of money, going into an uncontrolled bankruptcy, and liquidating, possibly putting a million more Americans out of work and causing a depression in the Midwest.
Q: Some commentators say that the government should not be making these kinds of interventions. They argue that the market should be allowed to work.
A: I agree that wherever possible, the market should be allowed to work. But in this case, we had no alternative. GM and Chrysler were running out of money, financial markets were frozen and there was no possibility of them raising additional funds, either in or outside of bankruptcy. So without government help, the entire auto sector would have collapsed, with disastrous economic consequences.
Q: What was it like to work in Washington on a day-to-day basis?
A: It’s certainly different from my previous positions in the private sector. In writing the book, I tried to paint a picture of what working in the world’s largest and most powerful bureaucracy is really like, with revealing, sometimes humorous anecdotes. For example, I ended up paying for beverages and lunch every time we had visitors; the Treasury had no budget for such things. Even getting visitors cleared for entry into the Treasury building could be challenging—one guest who had flown in from Detroit ended up having to speak to us from a nearby Starbucks. On the other hand, when you call and say you are from the U.S. Treasury, you get a very different response from when you call from a private investment firm!
Q: What is your outlook for the auto companies?
A: It’s too early to say for sure, but the preliminary indications suggest that both GM and Chrysler are on a path to sustained viability. GM has now reported two quarters of significant net income, and with luck it will complete its initial public offering in November. Chrysler still needs to successfully fill out its product line, but its financial results to date are also well ahead of our expectations. The new management teams at GM and Chrysler have already made a huge difference—management matters!
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
First, he writes well and, it would appear, quickly. This book was an extended summer project -- it cannot have been much more. His account is detailed, with names, dates, participants, settings, conversations all reconstructed with a journalist's ear for conversation and detail. It helps that before going to Wall St., Rattner was a reporter for the New York Times. The journalistic blind spot is that the book reads like a long newspaper article. Rattner does not reflect on the moral hazard of his enterprise, on what states or other governments should learn, or on what governments should do to stay out of the business of restructuring failing companies.
Second, Rattner is a solid financier. He knows his way around a balance sheet and understands the enormous complexity of a bankruptcy conducted under tough conditions. He has good reason to be proud of his work: the huge, desperate, hail-Mary pass that was the federal government decision to intervene and restructure the US Auto industry looks like it will actually work. As of the publication of this book, it appears that Chrysler will pay back its loans and that GM will go public and repay the public most or even all of its investment. If the Obama administration succeeds in saving two million+ jobs and getting the taxpayer's money back, that is a hell of an accomplishment. The banking blind spot is that Rattner carved an incredible hole in the US securities landscape. If holders of preferred debt can be forced to give up their claims on assets and accept a junior position to unsecured creditors (as they were in this, the largest of all bankruptcies), why will they lend money again?Read more ›
He wasted a lot of ink using details that don't matter. Such as who was setting where and what clothes they wore. Also he seems childish taking cheap shots at various people.
On page 277 he is talking about some of Chrysler's improvments and metnions the Dodge STRATUS which is not even produced anymore. Maybe he meant the Avenger, which would be correct, but I wonder if he even knew this.
He appears arrogant but what else would you expect from someone with his background?
I recommend this book though. I plan on reading the other books regarding the industry so it will be interesting to compare to this one. I don't believe everything he wrote in the book but most is probably valid.
In many ways, this type of book will probably become required reading in business schools around the country. What happens when companies get too cocky, give too many concessions to labor in good times, are partially government regulated and where the product is no longer cutting edge. Yes cars have a lot of new technology in them but they have been around for a hundred years and others have mastered the art of making them as you would expect.
I'm sure that working with these powerful people would produce a powerful high, especially when in the Oval office. Many years ago on a Whitehouse tour I was in the Oval Office and even with only typical citizens present I could feel the power. The book helped me relive this experience somewhat as Rattner talks about the decisions and people there trying the get "facetime" with the president. I only hope that Rattner is right, they made the correct decisions in rapid time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
excellent acocunt, but missing the financial summary at the end of the book - so how much did the taxpayer pay and what did they get back??Published 13 months ago by kkc
He's honest and thorough. He establishes without doubt that Team Auto was entirely in charge of both bailouts. Read morePublished 14 months ago by steven r. jakubowski
The book gives an interesting history of the need to reorganize GM. This is great, except GM shouldn't have been reorganized. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Erica Ford
As a native Detroiter, am interested in the auto industry as well as the devolution of this great city. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Marilyn Carlson-Swafford
Steven Rattner is a smart guy. Easy and entertaining read, I learned and gained an understanding that eluded me in this mixed up world.Published 23 months ago by teatime
This book is a case study in extremes; extremely good and extremely annoying. On one hand it provides a fascinating look at the work done to salvage the automotive industry from... Read morePublished on January 20, 2014 by Michael