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The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich Hardcover – October 13, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An empathetic look at the notorious Marc Rich, one of the most successful and controversial commodities traders in recent history and a key figure in the invention of the spot market. With unparalleled access to Rich, his family and associates, business journalist Ammann paints a nuanced portrait of the man vilified for trading with Iran and apartheid-era South Africa, accused of being the biggest tax fraudster in U.S. history and recipient of an infamous presidential pardon. At the pinnacle of his power, Rich presided over a multinational empire, and his opinion on key people in power in various rogue nations was routinely, if clandestinely, sought by the State Department despite his criminal status. Rich has scrupulously guarded his personal history, but Ammann reveals the struggle it was—from his family's escape from the Holocaust through their internment in a North African refugee camp to their bitter years as immigrants in the U.S. in the aftermath of WWII. This meticulous account sets the record straight on a reluctant public figure who lost in the court of public opinion, but escaped being tried in a court of law. Photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“It's a psychological thriller, each page percolating with the triumphant darkness that is Marc David Rich.” ―Bloomberg News

“An empathetic look at the notorious Marc Rich, one of the most successful and controversial commodities traders in recent history and a key figure in the invention of the spot market. With unparalleled access to Rich, his family and associates, business journalist Ammann paints a nuanced portrait of the man vilified for trading with Iran and apartheid-era South Africa, accused of being the biggest tax fraudster in U.S. history and recipient of an infamous presidential pardon. This meticulous account sets the record straight on a reluctant public figure who lost in the court of public opinion, but escaped being tried in a court of law.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Is Rich a rogue or a philanthropic businessman? Ammann lets readers draw their own conclusion. This book reads like a cross between a rags-to-riches saga and a cloak-and-dagger thriller, but it's also an excellent and timely primer on the world of commodities trading within a global economy and will greatly appeal to readers interested in current events.” ―Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition (stated) edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312570740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312570743
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As much as any book can, The King of Oil reveals an incredible amount of information into the world of Marc Rich. Because Marc Rich is so secretive it is hard to compare this book to any other written pieces about him.....but this book is fascinating because it touches upon the geopolitics, the emergence of the spot market for oil, commodity trading, presidential politics, business etc.

The downside of this book is that it doesn't reveal "how" Marc Rich won crucial contracts, established relationships and competed with other commodity traders. Perhaps it's too hard to reconstruct the deal-making conversations, but it would be interesting to hear the inside stories of those critical turning points in his career.

The book is an easy read and well worth it for anyone who is interested in the intersection of geopolitics and business.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read "Metal Men" by Copetas when it was published in the 1980's. At the time it was a supposed expose about Marc Rich and his expoitative behavior and treachery, and was the only book written about him. There was never an interview with Rich in the book, and when I re-read it after the Clinton pardon in 2001 it still left me with a feeling that alot was missing.
This new book by Ammann is a satisfying, eye-opening piece of balanced journalism that sheds enough light on Rich's life and works to allow the reader to make his own judgment on the man and the circumstances.
A well-written read for anyone interested in the life and motivations of an international businessman and, by default, political figure.
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Format: Hardcover
This is good book and I would daresay, an important one. For a man of his importance and prominence, Marc Rich has not been the focus of too many books. The total access that the author got to write this book makes it a very worthy read. For decades the only side of this story I knew was the prosecution's case. Ammann's interviews with Rich allow us to hear the other side, to hear counter arguments and perspective from the man himself. Does he give a totally balanced and detailed explanation of Rich's activities? No. Does it matter? Not really, since someone else will probably have to write that book. This subject area is ripe for further research and I welcome Ammann's effort here.
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Format: Hardcover
This was one of my favourite books of 2009. At last someone could meet Marc Rich and get more than monosyllables out of him. This book is very well researched and I congratulate the author for his tenacity in explaining to other people what oil trading is all about. Not only that, we learn that Marc Rich's ex-wife was perhaps not, as previously widely reported, the sole individual who helped gain a last-minute pardon from Bill Clinton. Some Israeli friends seemed to have helped a lot too.

I'm still not sure whether Marc Rich is a saint or a sinner. But, after reading this book, you have to admit, he's a very clever man and extremely astute when it comes to business.

As for Bill Clinton, I can imagine that last-minute pardon still seems a mystery to most people.

Marc Rich says he will never return to the United States for a visit, just in case he's arrested, for example, for a minor parking offence. Does that mean he doesn't really believe too much in that presidential pardon?

You have written a very entertaining book, Daniel Ammann.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Is there any prospect as frightening as a political show trial in the court of public opinion?

Reading about the 17-year government witch hunt for Marc Rich - the global commodities trader credited with inventing the spot oil market - I was reminded of an old quote attributed to Cicero:

"A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?"

In the early 1980s Rich became a prototype for the celebrity show trial, having been accused of 1) the largest tax fraud in history and 2) "trading with the enemy" through the duration of the Iran hostage crisis.

Rich was essentially a star-making vehicle for a fame-hungry prosecutor you may have heard of, Rudy Giuliani, launching the career in politics that followed.

For the reader with strong liberterian instincts, the thrust of government overreach in the Rich story is nauseating. The U.S. government tried to pursue Rich by means fair and foul for 17 years, including a kidnapping scheme in blatant violation of Swiss laws. (In refusing to succumb to U.S. bullying, the Swiss government is an unsung hero in this tale.)

The bungled extradition attempts came after Giuliani had used RICO, a controversial legal statue designed for mafia cases, to essentially shut down Rich's commodity trading business and extract hundreds of millions of dollars at gunpoint.
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