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Big Deal: Mergers and Acquisitions in the Digital Age Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nothing in business is more shrouded in secrecy and mystery than "doing the deal." The dealmakers themselves are usually flamboyant, the sums of money involved are vast, and the number of people who are affected by the deal are many. So it's no wonder that the media loves to cover stories like the QVC/Viacom battle over Paramount or Worldcom's recent takeover bids--deals like these can dominate headlines for days. Big Deal is about this high stakes game of corporate mergers and acquisitions. Author Bruce Wasserstein, himself a participant in many of these deals through his firm Wasserstein, Perella & Co., writes a highly readable and fascinating account that covers the history, personalities, and mechanics of mergers and acquisitions.

Wasserstein sees five waves of mergers beginning in the mid-1800s: the first wave involved the building of the railroad empires; the second in the 1920s saw a period of merger mania which was fueled in part by a frothy stock market and rapid industrial growth; the third wave happened during the "Go-Go Years" of the 1960s, which witnessed the rise of the conglomerate; the fourth occurred with the hostile takeovers of the 1980s, driven by names such as Icahn, Boesky, and Milken; and finally Wasserstein sees a fifth wave happening today. He attributes the current explosion of mergers and acquisitions to the need for companies to reposition themselves in today's ever changing competitive environment.

Wasserstein peppers the book with thumbnail personality profiles of some of the big dealmakers including Barry Diller, Sumner Redstone, Carl Icahn, T. Boone Pickens, and Bernard Ebbers. He also considers the many techniques and strategies employed by the dealmakers--poison pills, proxy fights, and bear hugs. Trends such as globalization, deregulation, and profound technological change are causing mergers and acquisitions to happen more than ever, and Big Deal provides a good foundation for understanding why and how these deals happen. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Everything you could ever want to know about big business deals (as long as you don't want to think too deeply about them). More akin to People magazine than an economic tract, the emphasis here is on people and headlines; this is not the place to seek insight into the broader implications of changing corporate structures for the economy or the nation, or grand theories of private enterprise. As a participant in mega-mergers for many years (including the Time-Warner merger) as a lawyer and banker, Wasserstein (With Justice For Some, 1971) provides an insider's account that is journalistic, fun, and basically uncritical. The volume is loosely organized into sections on history, specific industries, and tactics, but the mode of operation throughout is storytelling. Beginning with the battle between QVC chairman Barry Diller and Viacom's Sumner Redstone over the acquisition of Paramount, we meet the major playersalways profiled in sidebars to provide a more personalized view of the conflictsin the business deals that have dominated headlines in the past and especially recent years. The nomenclature is explained along the way, and in a world where you could encounter white knights or squires, poison pills, bear hugs, shark repellents, an IPO, the LIBOR, or even LBOs, this is no small contribution. The discussions of activity in the financial, telecommunications, and health- care industries are especially interesting, but few if any stones are left unturned: Wasserstein possesses a truly encyclopedic knowledge of corporate merger activity, and he shares it. Indeed, a more rigorous selection of material illustrating clearer themes in a shorter volume might have produced a more powerful book; the lack of anything that could be called a conclusion illustrates the somewhat directionless quality of the narrative. Nevertheless, Wasserstein's effort is informative and entertaining. (Radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Business Plus; 3rd edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446675210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446675215
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Turner on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arguably, few others could have been positioned to write a behind the scenes book detailing the world of corporate raiders, and financial gunslingers. He had the perfect opportunity to write a compelling book about flamboyant dealmakers and their deals. Unfortunately, in 800+ pages, Wasserstein has done a remarkable job of revealing little or nothing about his personal experiences.
This book covers the basics of M&A, various deals throughout history, and interjects profiles of some of the notable dealmakers like Diller, Redstone, Icahn, Pickens, and more.
The author also tackles the issue of how these mergers and acquisitions affect the little guy, trying to explain away anti-merger rhetoric. Unfortunately, most of his arguments can be summarized as, "it isn't that simple." Not very compelling.

This gargantuan book is informative, but most of it is dry and stilted. If you are looking for hidden information or colorful anecdotes about the stunning amount of money changing hands, this book will not give you what you want.
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By A Customer on August 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I work as a business intermediary assisting clients in both selling and buying their business. I always recommend that anyone interested in the M&A field read this book. My only complaint is that there was not enough on some of the more interesting personalities in the business.
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Format: Paperback
M&A tycoon Bruce Wasserstein has not just studied the high-stakes world of corporate mergers & acquisitions, he's lived it. As head of M&A at First Boston and then as leader of his own firm, Wasserstein has played a role in many pivotal corporate marriages. In these pages, Wasserstein comprehensively examines the hows and whys of history's largest deals. While skirting the fundamental question of whether mergers & acquisitions enhance or depress shareholder value over the long term, Wasserstein conveys an overwhelming amount of information about the dynamics and tactics that define M&A. The book is enormous and encyclopedic, so it might serve better as a reference text than a straight-through read. We from getAbstract strongly recommend this book for both its compelling historic accounts of Wall Street's most important deals and deal makers and its detailed breakdown of how the game actually works.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is like a textbook. It's structured with chapters on various industries, history, and the process.
It's also like a historical memoir, with profiles of many people the author knows personally.
Somewhere in the middle, we lose something.
For example, when describing historical facts, you get the sense that the author has pulled back. Judgements aren't made, interpretations are scarce. Mixed with the profiles, there's this nagging feeling that the author would never really criticize anyone. Tactful to the extreme is how it could be described, and as a result, the book does not have a soul.
Having said all that, it's kind of funny reading the bits on Drexel and the profile on Miliken. Everyone has already knocked them down, but Wasserstein doesn't kick a dead horse. That'd be too easy. He could write epitaths for villains.
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Format: Hardcover
BIG DEAL is a "big deal" itself--a sweeping historical account of merger activity over the past century and a half, and a rousing defense of mergers from a master practitioner. Wasserstein, chairman of Wasserstein Perella, has participated in over 1,000 merger transactions, including some of the largest ones in our times. In his view, there are five mian drivers of mergers: regulatory and political change, technological change, financial change, leadership, and the size-simplicity vortex--the constant urge of companies to achieve either greater size or greater focus. He weaves these themes throughout the book with the skill of a master novelist. (It must run in the family--he is the brother of Wendy Wasserstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.) One of the best parts of the book is its section on "doing the deal," which summarizes some of the mechanics of M&A, with a focus on large publicly held transactions: the "big deals" that shape our life and times.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What an incredible resource! I bought this book because it was on the suggested reading list for a course on Corporate Control I took in the MBA program at the University of Michigan b-school. Yes, it is almost 900 pages long. Yes, some of the stories could use a bit of updating because of the recent events at places like Tyco and Worldcom. But so what? It is nice to have on record how people used to think and talk about these businesses and their CEOs.
That little tiny caveat aside it is important to focus on everything you get in this really neat book. You get a history of the different waves of the M&A process throughout history, how it has evolved, the way it has developed in different industries and market sectors, and a rather nice analysis (in the broadest strokes) of what goes in planning and executing these deals.
Throughout the book there are wonderful spotlights on the principle people in the history of M&A and little synopses of the more famous and important precedent setting deals. This aspect of the book is incredibly valuable. In order to make sense of what we read about in the paper about mergers and acquisitions we need to know how we got here. This book provides an incredible amount of wonderful background material. Some complain that the book is long. I think it is amazing that he has put so much in only 900 pages. Amazingly compact!
Mr. Wassertein, one of the industries movers and shakers (currently running Lazard), has organized this book in twenty-three chapters that are grouped in three large sections: (1) Past as Prelude, (2) The Strategic Challenge, and (3) Doing the Deal. Plus there is a nice bibliography (also grouped in according to these three sections) that can lead to further reading on the topics of interest to you.
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