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The New Imperialists Hardcover – January 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

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,'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,'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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall Press; 1st edition (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735203172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735203174
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,630,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Theodore H. Sutton on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Move over "Citizen Kane," and make way for "The New Imperialists." Both have a lot in common. They're compelling, brilliant portraits of tycoons and the age they live in. They're psychological but free of cant and reductionism. They tell stories rather then spew facts and platitudes. And luckily for us, they're a lot of fun.
This book is impossible to put down, and I don't usually go for business or technology books. This one, however, reads like a novel. The reader feels he's there with Leibovich as he's peering inside Larry Ellison's Mercedes and spotting a hairbrush on the passenger seat, or listening to Jeff Bezos proudly proclaim how wannabe Amazon executives have to first submit their SAT scores. I learned how much I have in common with Bill Gates (we're lousy shavers) and how much I don't (he reads 30 books on his vacations, writes notes in the margins and sends the books back to the authors).
Leibovich tells us what makes these men who they are, what has driven them along the way and brings us along for the ride. He's a delightful, sardonic New Age Boswell and this, his first book, is a virtual romp.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Leibovich's use of the word "imperialist" is apt to the extent that each of the five "restless kids" (Case, Chambers, Bezos, Gates, and Ellison) grew up to "virtually rule the world" and now preside over the 21st century's equivalent of an empire. Thus each can be viewed as a modern-day emperor. In that sense, they are (at least for now) among the "royalty" of the contemporary business world. Frankly, I find them much more interesting as ordinary human beings in most respects but who do indeed possess a few extraordinary talents which help to explain why each has achieved so much thus far.
Leibovich organizes her excellent material with five chapters, each dedicated to one of the "new imperialists." Having just read Florence Stone's The Oracle of Oracle: The Story of Volatile CEO Larry Ellison and the Strategies Behind His Company's Phenomenal Success, I was already well-prepared for the first chapter. Stone's comments about Ellison are remarkably;y consistent with Leibovich's, both agreeing that Ellison is one of the most complicated, sometimes contradictory, and on occasion infuriating people they have as yet encountered. Consider Leibovich's account of a conversation with Adda Quinn, to whom Ellison was once married, years before the founding of Oracle: "Quinn calls Ellison the most charming, brilliant, and non-boring man she has ever known. He also gave her an ulcer, she says, with his deceptions, darting interests, and changing moods....He had an explosive temper and Quinn said she feared for her safety as their marriage was ending. The couple kept guns in the house -- they lived in a rough part of Oakland and had been burglarize -- and she thought that Ellison was becoming increasingly erratic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
One really wouldn't think a new book about these leaders of the 'new economy' is all that needed. After all, the stories of these guys are well documented to the point of pop legend. Mark Leibovich, however, shows that in capable hands much can be learned through looking at the past, present, and future.
He writes in a clear, direct tone and has obviously done a ton of research. One of the best things he does is lay out the facts objectively and let the reader reach his/her own conclusions about his subjects ( e.g, 'Are Gates, Ellison ruthless'? ) and about the big picture ( 'Does the burst of the bubble diminish tech in general' ?) It's refreshing to see an author respect his readership in such a manner.
All in all a very enjoyable book that I recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Ranabargar on March 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book offers great insights into the minds of todays business leaders. The diversity of this group is amazing and compelling reading. Each has a different style, beliefs, and background that have shaped their lives. I'm not a big reader, but I could not put this one down. Highly recommended.
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