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A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A Hardcover – October 15, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The mergers and acquisitions industry may seem like it's always been a part of the financial world, but as journalist Weir Close, founder and editor of the M&A Journal, shows, the history of M&A only begins in the mid-1970s. This detailed and lively chronicle looks at the world of M&A, the people who created it, and the next M&A boom. The story begins with Joe Flom and Marty Lipton, two rivals who took advantage of newly instituted government regulations and turned the buying and selling of companies into a profession of its own. Weir Close then takes the reader into the wild excesses of the years that followed, from workplace lunch-hour lap dances to coffee carts stocked with beverages, donuts, and cocaine, and 400-hour work months. In addition to Flom and Lipton, readers meet a host of influencers, including Merrill Lynch's Jeffrey Chandor and Drexel's Michael Milken, as well as famed eccentric Jimmy Goldsmith, who was known for his rubber band phobia. The narrative travels from Hollywood and the battle between John Kluge and Sumner Redstone over Orion, to publishing house Macmillan, to industries too numerous to count. Exhaustive and well written, Weir Close's account offers an insightful look forward and perceptive look back at the world of M&A. Agent: Larry Weissman, Larry Weissman Literary. (Oct.)

Review

“Close details prevailing practices, drawing on a wealth of information, flavored with gossip about wild parties, cocaine use and sexual extravaganzas during the working days of ‘nocturnal underground Wall Street.’” —Kirkus

"A Giant Cow-Tipping By Savages is uncommonly lively and literate in its sweeping depiction of one of the great upheavals in modern business history." —Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire's Vinegar

"A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages is Mad Men mixed with House of Cards, a bird's eye view into a world rarely seen, exposing the lives of men who changed corporate America, a drama filled with late-night deal making, fortune-hunting and pathos.” —Darci Picoult, Sundance fellow, screenwriter of award-winning Mother of George

"The excellence of this book begins with its title. It is a worldly and exhilarating account of America's corporate wars from the boisterous 1980s to the present." —James Buchan, author of The Authentic Adam Smith

"John Close vividly captures the tumult we experienced and the exhilaration we felt manning the battle stations in the takeover frenzy of the '80s—the most fascinating M&A decade in our history." —James Freund, Retired Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP

“Reading this compelling, colorful, and extraordinarily well-written romp through the M&A wars will bring back a flood of memories to the Players of the M&A Games. John Close persuasively documents how M&A fees corrupted Wall Street from serving its clients to treating them as revenue sources to be squeezed and, when emptied, discarded. Read this book; you will be thoroughly entertained and it will give you pause to think.” —Stuart L. Shapiro, Partner, Shapiro Forman Allen & Sava LLP

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230341810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230341814
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian G. Ruschel on November 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
First, I think the other raving reviews are all or mostly fake. Second, although this book was basically interesting, it was very hard to read and had a lot of weird padding and was mostly hard to follow--as if it was mostly just thrown together from a bunch of American Lawyer and other articles, with almost no editing. Many sentences were convoluted and I had to read them over again to figure out what being said. Very many sentences start out saying something and then by the end of the sentence, I'd be thinking "what?" and have to go back and figure it out. The author also had an annoying habit, in talking about something in the past, of talking in the present tense and changing to the past (as it should have been from the start). A lot of the headlines were odd (and actually hard to read), with a layout starting in bold and continuing in regular font. Lots of weird details thrown in: and I couldn't couldn't figure out why they were in there. For example, the author has a bunch of paragraphs and tiny indented quotes dealing with some Delaware judges, and after reading it all, I totally couldn't figure out why most of it was even in there. The author also includes an excruciating amount of detail about a young lawyer who confessed to his firm (after being strongly suspected) of giving tips to Dennis Levine, and about all the letters of support he got when he barely got reinstated to the bar to practice law, etc., etc., and his brain tumors, marriage, family, etc., etc. ad nauseum. In the meantime, I'm sure many other hundreds and hundreds of lawyers were just as important in doing the legal work on these mergers and transactions.
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Format: Hardcover
The 1908s was the start of the M&A boom, glorified on the big screen by Wall Street. John Weir Close looks back at those days in A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages.

The author is a lawyer and a journalist. He founded the M&A Journal and was an editor at The American Lawyer. His book seems to wrap more context, color and gossip around his old stories on M&A deals. The book reads like a collection of stories and lacks a coherent narrative.

You may guess from the title that Mr. Close may have warm feelings for M&A nostalgia, but has no love for the players. He dwells on their flaws. For many of the key players, those flaws were deep.

Many of the deals were deeply flawed. Bidders were fueled by fee-seeking advisers, cheap debt, and hubris. Many of the deals highlighted in the book lead to poor or disastrous results for the companies involved. The reality is that many of the mergers did not necessarily prove beneficial. The resulting company was laden with too much debt or managers who didn't understand the business.

The book starts by painting the corporate raiders as savages who brought down the managerial elite. CEOs and boards were sitting in comfortable seats and never feared that someone would come along and try to takeover their companies. Companies were then viewed for the break up values and the savages could rip it into pieces to create more value.

The book's title comes from a statement by Ted Turner during the AOL acquisition of Time-Warner. He didn't understand how a publisher, trying to sell magazines for a few dollars an edition, could combine with a company trying to give that content away for free. Turner was proved right as the AOL Time Warner merger is one of the worst business combinations of all time and cost Turner a fortune.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't normally read non-fiction books but I bought this one since I am in the M&A industry. This was a fascinating telling of the period from the 70s to the early 90s in big deal M&A. Everything I vaguely remembered from those days was brought to life with all of the back stories and the private lives of the player. The invention of the poison pill, hostile acquisitions, intrigue, and close calls. While some reviews took issue with the writing style it was a fun read (remember I don't like non-fiction so that is saying something coming from me). It seemed very well researched and even handed. It brought out trends and themes I had not spotted before and it covered a lot of who was sleeping with whom (literally and figuratively). If you are in the M&A field or you are a business history nerd you have to read this book.
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A great title captures you and then the story takes you on a journey unlike any other. It's a mesmerizing combination of "House of Cards," "Inside Job," and "I, Claudius," --the 70s series about ancient Rome. It's full of detailed and well-researched information and insight that comes from the author’s long experience of reporting on mergers and acquisitions. There are nefarious characters and sad dysfunctional people, as well as courageous and brilliant and determined fighters for their place among the powerful. I felt pulled through the story with speed and care, and by a welcome clarity. The author’s writing is excellent, and captures an amazing picture of the world of finance and intrigue. This is a superb piece of work. It deserves to become a classic.
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Format: Hardcover
This is certainly a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in business, investing, economics, and that sort of thing. The one caution I would have is that this is indeed a history of M & A, and the main thrust of the book are the deals and personalities from the "early days" of what is considered to be modern M & A activity, starting in the 70's and 80's. More current information comes toward the end of the book, and it almost seems an afterthought. I guess because the book is fairly new I was expecting the focus to be on more current merger activity. but this is a minor quibble, and I should have read the synopsis more carefully. Anyway, after I mentally shifted gears, I enjoyed the book. I've been investing, and reading about anything relating to business and investing since the 1970's, so I was familiar with all of the cases that he features, but I've found that it generally proves interesting to read about these deals from different perspectives, and the author had a lot of interesting insights on the deals and dealmakers involved. I will to some degree agree with other reviews in that the book does seem a bit disjointed, and some of the deals he showcases are more interesting than others, but it's more of an annoyance than a fatal flaw. I also like how he takes the time to talk about the Delaware Chancery Court system, as it does play a vital role in business disputes, and most likely not many people are aware of the court at all, or if they are, probably don't know very much about it. While it's not a tutorial by any means, he does have some good information that was interesting to read (and I live in Delaware, so it was kind of fun to read about it from a local point of view). Overall, a very good book that I enjoyed. Reading this book was time well-spent.
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