- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Collins; First Edition edition (January 6, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060540346
- ISBN-13: 978-0060540340
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fools Rush In : Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner Hardcover – January 6, 2004
From Publishers Weekly
Munk's entry to the growing list of books about the AOL Time Warner merger provides a thorough recap of the debacle, with the author coming to her own conclusion on the causes behind the merger's failure. After more than 100 pages of the obligatory background on AOL and its chairman, Steve Case, and Time Warner and chairman Jerry Levin, Munk begins to make her argument that Case and Levin, who ran their companies with few checks and balances, bear the greatest responsibility for orchestrating a deal that had little chance to succeed. She presses her case by hitting hard on the fact that few Time Warner executives knew about the pending deal until hours before it was announced, and that even fewer executives supported the proposal. That due diligence for the $165-billion merger only took three days and that many of the merged company's top managers sold large chunks of stock (including Case who sold shares worth $100 million) shortly after the deal closed is further proof to Munk that the combination was not well thought out and that many managers had doubts about its success from the very beginning. For readers looking for a quick review of events surrounding the AOL Time Warner merger, Munk's book fits the bill, but for those who are already well versed on the subject, Munk (a contributing editor at Vanity Fair) adds little new information.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As a senior writer at Fortune magazine, Munk began research for an article on Jerry Levin and the AOL Time Warner deal in the fall of 2000. Although that particular article was shelved, her work led to two pieces in Vanity Fair and a full-blown research project that culminated in this solidly researched, steadily paced book. Time magazine, first published in 1923 by Henry Luce, was the first in a series of wildly successful publications (including Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated) that set the tone for American public opinion and created a high-minded atmosphere that pervaded the company for years. In 1972, with television overshadowing print media, Jerry Levin revitalized the company by merging with Warner Cable in a stroke of genius that introduced satellite TV and the cable premium channel HBO. In 2000, the unprecedented merger with AOL was supposed to revive the company once again--and was a disaster of massive proportions for everyone but Steve Case and the former employees of AOL. The fallout included a loss of $220 billion in shareholder value and more than 30 lawsuits against the company and its executives. Although the merger has been covered extensively, this appears to be the most comprehensive and impartial account to date. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
This book is the story of AOL using virtual money to buy real assets. If the real story is interesting, Nina Munk has made it exciting. Grass on the other side is greener, the old saying goes. AOL wanted something real to latch on in its digital world while Time Warner was craving for digitization. A merger, would be a perfect marriage, as it appeared to the CEOs of the two companies. Three years since then, over $ 200 billion of stock valuations have evaporated back into where they belong - cyberspace. It is said that greed, optimism and herd mentality are the three drivers of capitalism . Need a better example ?
A repetition of these obvious facts is not what makes this book a good read. Nina Munk has diligently tracked the business histories of the companies involved, listed the key players and their biographies and then integrated this background into the main story of the merger and its problems.
Easy to read, and light on technical aspects. At the end, I personally feel that Time Warner in its new form has the capacity to come back. After all it is this true spirit of free enterprise that keeps America going. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Ms. Munk has written a delightful story of the world's worst large merger that features lots of texture about the key players (especially Gerry Levin) and is written in a simple, effective style. Her book has more balance than the Klein book which emphasizes the sales and accounting legerdemain at AOL.
One of the book's most engaging qualities is that it is filled with powerful and interesting quotes from the participants and the observers.
I have had the opportunity to observe Time Warner in the past as a consultant, and I was struck that Ms. Munk did well in capturing the management style of the company and its reclusive CEO, Mr. Levin.
I would have rated the book higher except that this report still leaves the central mystery of AOL-Time Warner unexplained . . . why didn't anyone at Time Warner or its advisors figure out that AOL's profit success was based on a three-card Monte game before the deal was announced? Either people were bought off or they were monumentally stupid. Getting to the bottom of that mystery will have to await yet another book on this subject, I'm afraid. Ms. Munk puts it down to Mr. Levin's "big-picture, don't-bother-me-with-the-details" mentality.
If you want smooth, easy reading that gets most of the facts right, this book is a good choice. I particularly commend this book to students who are learning about how to make (and more importantly, not to make) acquisitions. If you mainly want to know about the AOL shenanigans, I suggest Stealing Time instead.
But this story isn't just about AOL Time Warner but about corporate America in general, about how merger mania and golden parachuted moguls can play fast and loose with our money, our livelihood, our country, and our future. It's about the collateral damage, the megalomania, the broken hearts and the evaporated portfolios. It's about the mentality of corporate CEOs like Levin who as he turned sixty wanted to be remembered for something other than the bottom line, "for integrity...high moral principles; and wisdom." (p. 133) Ah, yes, a lifetime of chasing money and power and now True Religion. One is reminded of Bill Gates with the very demanding problem of how to distribute all that money wisely before he dies.
Munk knows these people. How she got them to be so carelessly candid at times amazes me, especially her work with Levin.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great read for anyone attempting to understand how humans make decisions with cataclysmic consequences. Read morePublished 3 months ago by JoelS
A little slow at the beginning. Amazing that the merger was kept secret until a few hours before the planned announcement. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Gregory Monti
From a 'story' standpoint, I enjoyed this book.
It's an easy read that clearly depicts the fiasco that is/was the AOL-Time Warner merger. Read more
Always interesting to see how human and imperfect people are even when they are key executives at major companies. Worth the read.Published on October 11, 2013 by bernie
This book covers the birth of Times to the shaping of Time Warner, then to the days of AOL Time Warner. Read morePublished on January 25, 2013 by Andi S. Boediman (a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur)
This really is a fun read, a pot boiler, a look inside very powerful but flawed characters. For anyone involved with M&A this story will make your skin crawl; especially the DD.Published on November 30, 2012 by John O'Mara
You don't have to be interested in AOL, Time Warner or their merger to read this book! This is a classic tale in American history of what happens when everyone thinks they are the... Read morePublished on January 9, 2006 by Jeffrey Wright
Munk's book reads like a fast paced novel and is easy enough to understand. It has not received the publicity of books like 'Good to Great' although in many ways it provides... Read morePublished on December 7, 2004 by Tom Verghese
I really liked this book. As a former participant of the crazy ways of carrying out business during the Internet hype, I think Nina Munk captured the essence of what drove so many... Read morePublished on November 5, 2004 by XAVIER PONCEDELEON