If you use a personal computer or automated teller machine, make purchases online, or consume media of any kind, your life is directly impacted by the five digital-age visionaries profiled in The New Imperialists. Reams have already been written, of course, about Microsoft's Bill Gates, AOL-Time Warner's Steve Case, Oracle's Larry Ellison, Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, and Cisco's John Chambers. But Mark Leibovich, national technology reporter for The Washington Post, digs deeper here to present insightful individual portraits of these "generals of the networked world's ruling empires" that reveal what has really driven them to the leading edge of today's business universe. Based on some 400 interviews with relatives, friends, associates, and adversaries, in addition to one-on-one sessions with its usually more reticent subjects, the book offers a very readable account of key formative events and subsequent reactions that are not typically part of such titans' shared résumés. From the personal experiences that helped shape their generally serene youth--Ellison "had difficulty telling the truth," for example, while Chambers "battled dyslexia and for a time believed he was stupid"--to the public manifestations that now affect millions, Leibovich presents eye-opening accounts recommended for anyone drawn to the human stories behind our day's most ubiquitous corporate names. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
Leibovich, a technology reporter for the Washington Post, sets out to explain the phenomenal success of five of technology's brightest luminaries AOL Time Warner's Steve Case, Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, Cisco's John Chambers, Oracle's Larry Ellison and, naturally, Microsoft's Bill Gates. Leibovich assumes, rightly, that these men's ruthless drive must stem from childhood, and by the time readers finish the fifth profile, it's a predictable pattern: Some adolescent trauma (dyslexia, adoption) is followed by an inexorable rise through the high tech ranks. All but one of the five grew up affluent, and Ellison's middle-class urban upbringing only seems deprived compared with the suburban private schools and six-figure start-up money the other four families provided. Some of the most telling characterizations are in the margins: here is perhaps the best insight into the symbiotic relationship between Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; and then there's the sad story of Monte Davidoff, a Microsoft start-up employee who was left behind, a tale known within geek circles but not by the general public. Leibovich does not provide the close first-person access to principals that Michael Lewis did for Jim Clark for The New New Thing, and he acknowledges that corporate flaks were on hand for interviews and copied on e-mails. Yet all five profiles essentially updated versions of Leibovich's work for the Post are rife with juicy anecdotes that should please technophiles. And the time seems ripe for highlighting the human frailties of marquee high tech CEOs, who have lost their Midas touch reputation with investors. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)Forecast: Hardcore techies might be disappointed with the choice of these five men to represent the digital age, since three of them are actually salesmen and marketers. But this mix should please readers interested in business, technology and corporate culture.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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