From Publishers Weekly
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., universally known as KKR, pioneered the leveraged buyout and participated in some of the most celebrated takeover fights of the 1980s. Both authors have worked for KKR as consultants since 1994, and have the company's blessing for this corporate biography. Throughout, the book gives a selective but solid history of KKR deals, showing the full 20-year sweep of the firm rather than concentrating on the atypical battles of the late 1980s. While the authors had some access to financial results and other in-house documents, as well as to personnel, their presentation of the data and interviews with KKR staff often reads like bland restatement of public positions, as in discussions of KKR's much criticized takeover of Safeway, or of Peter Storer's abrupt departure after KKR bought out Storer Communications. (It "seems" he "left unexpectedly for personal reasons.") We are spared information about the fates of associates of KKR who ended up in bankruptcy (such as Executive Life, the first life insurance bankruptcy in the U.S. since the Depression), scandal or jail ("Chainsaw Al" Dunlop and Michael Milkin, respectively). Opponents of KKR and leveraged buyouts are often mentioned only to be dismissed without refutation. Not specific enough for professionals, dramatic enough for casual readers or balanced enough for people in between, it is hard to imagine an audience for this book.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The investment firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) is synonymous with the practice of the leveraged buyout (LBO), and KKR has inarguably changed the face of business. Four years ago, it contracted Baker and Smith to document the histories of its investments so that newer members of the firm would have more than oral tradition to guide them. Smith is a founding partner of the Winthrop Group, a company that compiles corporate histories. Baker is an economist and business professor at Harvard Business School. In completing their project, they discovered that much of their research had potential interest to a much wider audience, and they convinced Henry Kravis and George Roberts to agree to this book. The firm saw a benefit in demonstrating that the buyout was an effective financial technique and incentive system. The authors make the case that the way a company is financed affects the way it is managed. They look at the history of the LBO and analyze its effectiveness as a tool for improving performance. David Rouse