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Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business Paperback – September 1, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This inside look from a Wall Street Journal reporter at massive leveraged-buyout operations of the Manhattan-based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts financial partnership during the 1980s is beautifully organized and written in immediate and lively prose. Anders explains how KKR, with incredible audacity, borrowed billions in cash from investment bankers, pension plans, college endowments and even their takeover targets' willing management to buy and saddle with heavy deductible debut such giant corporations as Safeway, Beatrice, Duracell and RJR Nabisco. After quick and ruthless efficiency measures were imposed on the corporations to enhance earnings and pay off the debt, assets were then resold, yielding millions of dollars in fees and profits. The game collapsed with the 1990 onset of recession, and the author here reveals how KKR leadership survived while other financiers went under or to jail. First serial to Wall Street Journal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) was founded in New York in 1976 by three enterprising investment bankers, Jerry Kohlberg, (...) Kravis, and George Roberts, with the simple purpose of assisting companies to participate in management-led buyouts or leveraged buyouts (LBOs). While its origins were humble, KKR's lifespan to date has not been, having spent almost $60 billion in 38 buyouts of companies, which resulted in a reshaping of corporate America. Wall Street Journal reporter Anders chronicles the rise of KKR during the 1980s, the "age of debt," and shows how a simple formula using borrowed money could be successfully repeated over and over again in corporate takeovers, bringing untold wealth and power to the men of KKR and to their investors. The pinnacle of success for KKR was the RJR Nabisco buyout in 1989 costing $26.4 billion (this is covered at length in Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's Barbarians at the Gate , LJ 1/90). Unfortunately, the free-spending 1980s gave way to the recessionary 1990s, and KKR's fortunes similarly declined, with its partnership unraveling. This compelling book is recommended for all business collections.
- Richard Drezen, Merrill Lynch Lib., New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Beard Books (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587981254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587981258
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John G. Hilliard on April 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book covers the largest and probably the best of the leveraged buyout firms that became so popular and profitable in the 80's. What I would like to say is that this was an outstanding book that is the leader of the class on this topic. You get a wonderfully documented and rich description of the group of high finance leaders during the 80's Junk Bond and M&A scandals. The author also provides a very readable explanation of the tools used in both the legitimate and illegal side of this issue. This is just a detailed and exciting book; the extra pages and detail do not slow it down at all. The personal descriptions of the people behind the "KKR" names is very interesting, it is something that many massive ego's could actually work together even if they are family.
If you are interested in this topic then I would suggest you also read "Predator's Ball" and "Den of Thieves". If you read only one book on this topic then this is the book to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
MoD is today's vintage and as the original classic on PE and KKR. I first read this book about 20 years ago while trying to understand what PE and LBO were all about. What better way was there than to study the story and the evolution of the original artists. I was glad i found this book then recommended by an adviser. it gave me the thearter's best seat view of dealmaking in action! George Anders painted a very lucid and impactful picture of dealmaking and high finance in a way that even a novice will walk away with expert insight.

Since I left my ivy league MBA program and started working on Wall Street and in global finance almost two decades ago, I always had a copy of MoD in my bag. I had given tens of copies away to friends and clients. It was and is still that good. When I got an alert that the book is now available in ebook format, I got my kindle version in less than 15 minutes. Now I have my high finance bible on the go: my briefcase is now one book lighter.

I highly recommend this for students, teachers, players and those interested in PE, LBO, Wall Street, and high finance using the best and foremost firm in the business as a case study. MoD is the best in class. The ebook version makes it easier to have the book on the go!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author does a great job of neither making KKR heroic nor vilifying them as simply another set of greedy bankers. A great job was done in leaving it to the reader to decide for themselves based on a well presented story regarding the firm and its lead characters. Either way, you'll learn a lot from reading about KKR's exploits.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Most of the book is great. The last part, about 1990s and beyond is more of bird's view of KKR's impact on industry and development outside US, but it's compensated by great appendix with the list of the KKR deals (it appears after Kindle's "Please review" page and is easy to miss - don't miss it!).
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George Anders did an outstanding job telling the story of KKR. Henry Kravis and George Roberts are iconic capitalists, who pioneered the concept of "Bootstrap" investing and private equity. In the tradition of the greatest American capitalists, they built a company and industry from the ground up.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The rise of leveraged buyout firms and the New Gilded Age is the great under-appreciated saga of our times. Anders's case study on KKR's deal-making is the best-reported book out there on the phenomenon, despite having first been published 20 years ago. Anders takes a more benign view than I do of buyout artists. I think they are pernicious and responsible for the dramatic rise in inequality, with all the attendant economic and political consequences. Max Holland, author, When the Machine Stopped
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very readable and objective view of some very slick operators. an easy way to understand the terrible consequences of greed.
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KKR is always a fascinating story. Nothing much was updated after RJR bond reset. Would love to see a longer update. Nevertheless, an interesting book about the history of KKR
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