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The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals Hardcover – April 13, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Partnoy (F.I.A.S.C.O.) delivers a thrilling account of the grandfather of all Ponzi and Madoff schemes—Ivar Kreuger (1880–1932), who made his fortune in the 1920s by raising money from American investors to lend to European governments in exchange for match monopolies. Kreuger was creating more than matches, it turned out; the master of investor psychology created the forerunners of today's derivatives and techniques that are still used by hedge funds and investment banks. Shortly after his suicide in 1932, his schemes finally unraveled. The Kreuger crash bankrupted millions and led to the securities laws of 1933 and 1934—a political reaction to a single event and to one man. Partnoy achieves a nuanced portrait of the charismatic and corrupt financial genius whose advice was sought by Herbert Hoover and other heads of state. A fascinating depiction of a man and his era (Greta Garbo makes memorable cameos), this book is a snapshot of a time all too familiar now: a speculative real estate bubble, unbridled consumer spending, investors buying derivatives based on sketchy information and a Wall Street operating by its own rules. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ivar Kreuger, the “best-liked crook that ever lived,” was a Swede who operated on Wall Street during the 1920s, and his apparent suicide in 1932 coincided with the collapse of his businesses, bankrupting millions of investors. Partnoy, author and academic, conducted extensive research on Kreuger, who was considered the greatest business mind of his time. He cornered global markets in safety matches by raising money in the U.S. and loaning it to European governments in return for monopoly control of production and sales; he devised and sold complicated financial products and with questionable accounting methods structured a long list of murky deals. Partnoy explains that Kreuger, while a crook, was an attractive one who created substantial wealth, revived much of post–World War I Europe, and generated real profits for investors before his empire collapsed. With the current arrest of Wall Street’s Bernard Madoff for stealing more than $60 billion from investors, we are reminded that history repeats itself. This is a timely and excellent book. --Mary Whaley
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1ST edition (April 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487434
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487430
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Great story; well written.
pimster
My one complaint is that too much of the book gets tied up in knotty details that lack significance.
Loyd E. Eskildson
A fascinating read about Ivar Kreuger and his financial dealings and companies.
A&P

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By David Kinchen on April 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Match King' Revives an Almost Forgotten Financial Figure Who Outdid Ponzi, Madoff, Stanford

By David M. Kinchen

Everything in life is founded on confidence -- Ivar Kreuger

History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again. -- Kurt Vonnegut

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. -- Karl Marx

* * *

Charles Ponzi, Bernard Madoff, R. Allen Stanford, Ivar Kreuger.

Kreuger? Who's he?

Frank Partnoy tells us about the Swedish financier who outdid Ponzi, Madoff and the Texan Standford in an elegantly written biography "The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals" (PublicAffairs, 304 pages, $26.95).

Ponzi's scheme was penny ante compared with Kreuger's machinations, which resulted in a grand illusion that lasted more than a decade and saw Kreuger lending money to European governments and creating financial instruments that are still in use today. The New York Times Co., for instance, uses "B" shares, which have only a fraction of the voting power of "A" shares. This concept was created by Kreuger, as were privately customized, over-the-counter derivatives, now a multi-trillion dollar market, Partnoy says.

Complex foreign exchange options were another Kreuger invention, now widely used today in transactions totaling trillions of dollars. Hybrid debentures? Kreuger invented these and they're widely used by many financial institutions and companies such as Avon.

Kreuger (1880-1932) was a civil engineer by training and a financier, entrepreneur and industrialist by instinct. In 1908 he co-founded a construction company called Kreuger & Toll.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. G. Monks on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Rare it is that a thousand page book is beguilingly compressed into a quarter of that length when the common practice is just the reverse. The book is a delight - from encountering a thirteen year old Greta Garbo; through the marvelously depicted co-optation of an independent accountant (through his wife); the seduction of the ambitious young man who wants to be partners with the grandees of Wall Street; the description of beautiful living and working spaces; the realities of finance and personality in inter war Europe; and - above all else - the absolute insistence of the buying public to be allowed to participate in getting rich. Whether it is the slot machines or Bernie Madoff's guaranteed 8%, the packaging of oversees properties or the perfection of the tulip bulb, the dot com bubble or the limitless rise in residential real estate values, the ages have probably never produced as coherent, well organized and effective a promoter as Frank Partnoy's Ivar Krueger.

The book is a masterpiece. When you read, you will marvel at the persistence and ingenuity of the research that lies behind the words. Possibly, the finest single thread is description of the way in which Krueger enlisted the loyalty of people essential to him. Yes, some he bought, but most - he beguiled. He gave people a sense of participating in something that gave them an excuse to have an expanded view of themselves. This is not a costless process and Krueger spent much solitary, and - one suspects - depressed time, time re energizing this capacity to give others a sense of being greater than they otherwise might have been.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By david brown on May 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Early in this book there is a breathtaking paragraph. It is not breathtaking due to wording or emotion. Rather it is breathtaking because it starts with Ivar Kreuger (1880-1932) in high school and ends with him twenty five years later owning worldwide match, construction and film empires. All in one paragraph.

Clearly this book is not a biography in any sense of the word but is properly classified as a business history. The author, Frank Partnoy, is focused on the last decade of Krueger's life when Kreuger was striking deals to lend money to governments in return for monopolies in producing and selling matches. This strategy put him in conflict with traditional bankers, such as the J.P. Morgan company, and required Kreuger to raise huge amounts of money in Wall Street.

The vast bulk of the book is concerned with these transactions and how Kreuger achieved them. Unfortunately there was a large element of fraud associated with the transactions. Kreuger's financial statements were manipulated to show profits and assets which weren't there. However the main interest in the book is how Kreuger also manipulated the auditors, investment bankers, commercial bankers and directors to facilitate his frauds. Kreuger used his intelligence, charm and networking to cater to their greed, ego and ignorance.

The author tries to position Kreuger as the pioneer in Wall Street fraud and attempts to show that his "innovations" come down to the current day. Having read to book I would say that case was "not proven". Financial fraud has existed for eternity and without a sweeping review of its history, which this book is not, it is impossible to say who was first in any innovations. The fact that the author references Bernie Madoff or uses trendy terms (i.e.
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