From Publishers Weekly
In this history of investment bank Goldman Sachs, Ellis (Winning the Loser's Game
) covers the same ground as Lisa Endlich's Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success
—with notable stylistic differences. From Marcus Goldman's purchase of his first commercial paper in 1869 to the firm's current success, Ellis's account is lively and engaging where Endlich's is accurate but dry. Ellis sheds light on events through dialogue and detailed descriptions of people's thoughts and feelings, embellishments that the author terms recreations in his epilogue. The effect of infusing such narrative techniques into the history of Goldman Sachs is entertaining, but it pushes the envelope of nonfiction, especially since the author appears to have interviewed only former partners of the firm. More damagingly, Ellis fails to report much about actual business, and attempts to do so—such as a chapter on Rockefeller Center financing—require lengthy digressions and are incomprehensible due to the complexities of the transactions. Without links to business, boardroom conflicts take on the air of petty squabbles. More a composite memoir of senior Goldman partners than a traditional history, this book will satisfy readers curious about the philosophies and personalities of the firm. (Oct.)
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Ellis, the author of 14 books and managing partner of Greenwich Associates, a strategy-consulting firm, here provides a history of Goldman Sachs, which is arguably the most profitable and powerful investment bank in the world today. The firm began in 1885 as the partnership of two intermarrying families, but there was a rift early on; to this day, the two families are not on speaking terms. Nevertheless, through the expertise of the many partners through the years, the firm has pioneered virtually every area of finance: early in the twentieth century, they underwrote the initial stock offerings of companies such as Sears and Ford; they dominated institutional block trading in the 1970s, bonds and leveraged buyouts in the 1980s, and global finance in the 1990s. The book also chronicles the tough times the company has weathered, including the Great Depression, various market meltdowns, and insider trading scandals. Ellis touches on the mortgage crisis, which Goldman Sachs recognized early on and deftly avoided (unlike rivals such as Bear Stearns). Ellis has done a thorough job of researching the prestigious organization, providing a look at the many personalities that have made the famous name into what it is today. --David Siegfried