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Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
The first real look inside Team Obama due just before the 2010 elections mixes political warfare and big business shakeups in equal proportions, and comes from a uniquely informed source. Steve Rattner is not just the man brought in by the president to save the auto industry, he is a former New York Times financial reporter who also earned a place among the top tier of Wall Street s most informed investment bankers and corporate experts. Now, from his vantage point at the helm of the historic auto-industry intervention, Rattner crafts a tightly plotted narrative of political brinkmanship, corporate mismanagement, and personalities under pressure in a high-stakes clash between Washington and Detroit. He also explains the tough choices he and his team made, working against a ticking clock and facing vocal opposition from free market champions, to keep Chrysler and General Motors in operation.

As the economy faced free fall, Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and economic advisor Larry Summers all revealingly described faced the possibility of more than a million lost jobs and the astonishing wreckage of GM (a nightmare of huge proportions, caused by terrible management) and Chrysler (a company so close to death it was nearly sacrificed). Rattner s book which will take the story up to the fall of 2010 is a gripping account of one of the severest crises of President Obama s first year in office, with lessons relevant for all managers and executives.

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Steven Rattner

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I am exceptionally proud of the leadership that President Obama and his senior advisers showed in insisting that we do the right thing, as opposed to the expedient thing, and felt that that story deserved to be told.

Q: Most Washington memoirs tend to be either dry policy books or centered on the author’s recollections. How does yours differ?

A: I did not want to write either an unreadable quasi-academic tome or a book about me! So I decided to use my background as a journalist to "report out" the story, extending it to include events before and after my time at the Treasury. I interviewed more than 150 people, covering a period that began with the decision by the Bush administration to provide GM and Chrysler with bridge financing and ended with GM’s filing of its initial public offering and its naming of Dan Akerson as CEO. And I also tried to use my journalistic training to write the book in a lively, engaging manner.

Q: Are there any particular ways that you tried to make the book readable?

A: I tried to bring to life the many interesting characters who were part of this extraordinary restructuring. I came away from my time in Washington with enormous respect for President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, and many others, and I thought readers would be interested in human portraits of these exceptional people. I also got to know the CEOs and other key players in the auto industry and worked hard to also bring them to life for readers.

Q: Most Americans these days have a low opinion of Washington and what goes on there. As a newcomer to government, how did you find your experience?

A: It was eye-opening. On the one hand, because of President Obama’s leadership and because of the existence of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (better known as "TARP"), we were able to successfully restructure these companies using the bankruptcy process and $82 billion of TARP money. But I also learned that the success of the auto effort was quite unusual by Washington standards because almost any other initiative would require congressional approval, and Congress is every bit as dysfunctional as polls suggest Americans believe that it is. If we had had to secure congressional approval of the auto bailout, I have no doubt that at least one or both of the automakers would have ended up running out of money, going into an uncontrolled bankruptcy, and liquidating, possibly putting a million more Americans out of work and causing a depression in the Midwest.

Q: Some commentators say that the government should not be making these kinds of interventions. They argue that the market should be allowed to work.

A: I agree that wherever possible, the market should be allowed to work. But in this case, we had no alternative. GM and Chrysler were running out of money, financial markets were frozen and there was no possibility of them raising additional funds, either in or outside of bankruptcy. So without government help, the entire auto sector would have collapsed, with disastrous economic consequences.

Q: What was it like to work in Washington on a day-to-day basis?

A: It’s certainly different from my previous positions in the private sector. In writing the book, I tried to paint a picture of what working in the world’s largest and most powerful bureaucracy is really like, with revealing, sometimes humorous anecdotes. For example, I ended up paying for beverages and lunch every time we had visitors; the Treasury had no budget for such things. Even getting visitors cleared for entry into the Treasury building could be challenging—one guest who had flown in from Detroit ended up having to speak to us from a nearby Starbucks. On the other hand, when you call and say you are from the U.S. Treasury, you get a very different response from when you call from a private investment firm!

Q: What is your outlook for the auto companies?

A: It’s too early to say for sure, but the preliminary indications suggest that both GM and Chrysler are on a path to sustained viability. GM has now reported two quarters of significant net income, and with luck it will complete its initial public offering in November. Chrysler still needs to successfully fill out its product line, but its financial results to date are also well ahead of our expectations. The new management teams at GM and Chrysler have already made a huge difference—management matters!

From Publishers Weekly

"A team of professionals who come together to do a job, execute it seamlessly, and then just as quickly go their separate ways" is Rattner's characterization of the people who oversaw the rescue of GM and Chrysler. He also says they're akin to "soldiers in wartime," and defends both descriptions. Rattner emphasizes how this team (which involved the Treasury, White House, and Detroit) saw their work as a public service, though staggeringly complex and potentially devastating to the economy. Beginning with the Bush Administration's decision to help the industry, and ending with the automakers emerging from forced bankruptcy, former New York Times journalist Rattner adeptly conveys the depth of the challenge, the hazards and pitfalls they faced, and their ultimate success. He keeps the narrative essentially factual, with few forays into the personalities around him; he eschews gossip and is admirably fair to all involved. Most surprising is his lively tone, clear narrative, and the skill with which he skirts minutia. Rattner believes in doing a good job and admires those who share this quality; his effort is a testament to people who do their best when called upon. Photos. (Oct.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547443218
  • ASIN: B0052HKWS6
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,911,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steve Rattner has three gifts -- and the blind spots to prove it.

First, he writes well and, it would appear, quickly. This book was an extended summer project -- it cannot have been much more. His account is detailed, with names, dates, participants, settings, conversations all reconstructed with a journalist's ear for conversation and detail. It helps that before going to Wall St., Rattner was a reporter for the New York Times. The journalistic blind spot is that the book reads like a long newspaper article. Rattner does not reflect on the moral hazard of his enterprise, on what states or other governments should learn, or on what governments should do to stay out of the business of restructuring failing companies.

Second, Rattner is a solid financier. He knows his way around a balance sheet and understands the enormous complexity of a bankruptcy conducted under tough conditions. He has good reason to be proud of his work: the huge, desperate, hail-Mary pass that was the federal government decision to intervene and restructure the US Auto industry looks like it will actually work. As of the publication of this book, it appears that Chrysler will pay back its loans and that GM will go public and repay the public most or even all of its investment. If the Obama administration succeeds in saving two million+ jobs and getting the taxpayer's money back, that is a hell of an accomplishment. The banking blind spot is that Rattner carved an incredible hole in the US securities landscape. If holders of preferred debt can be forced to give up their claims on assets and accept a junior position to unsecured creditors (as they were in this, the largest of all bankruptcies), why will they lend money again?
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By amr88 on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is ok. Nothing great but not horrible.

He wasted a lot of ink using details that don't matter. Such as who was setting where and what clothes they wore. Also he seems childish taking cheap shots at various people.

On page 277 he is talking about some of Chrysler's improvments and metnions the Dodge STRATUS which is not even produced anymore. Maybe he meant the Avenger, which would be correct, but I wonder if he even knew this.

He appears arrogant but what else would you expect from someone with his background?

I recommend this book though. I plan on reading the other books regarding the industry so it will be interesting to compare to this one. I don't believe everything he wrote in the book but most is probably valid.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a solid book written by, Steven Rattner, a career Democrat. As a conservative, I'm always on the lookout for bias in sources but I found Rattner's account of the events of the GM, Chrysler, and Ford bailouts to be fair. He admits his bias up front which is fine with me. This was especially evident in his impartial treatment of Senator Corker. Personally, I don't have a lot of experience with the Big Three or the world of finance so I am not in a position to assess the author's authenticity as a historian. I found his story persuasive and honest. Overhaul is not an indictment of the Obama Administration. It provides some interesting insight concerning Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama, and Larry Summers. Admittedly, some of the quotes they would not want to get in general circulation but Rattner's text has no "gotcha" in it. Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was good but not great. It flowed quickly and was entertaining. I also found it educational as most of the inside baseball that occurred was previously unknown to me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Rattner, as one might expect from a former reporter, writes well and keeps the reader's interest. Through his eyes you get a glimpse of work in the Government at a high level and see that many individuals are hard working and self sacrificing and labor under tough working conditions. Team auto had to wade through many decisions in short order and after reading this book, one has to wonder if all the right decisions were made. To my eye, it really is too early to make good judgements about all of this. Rattner, of course, thinks that they have, but it took years to create the auto problems in this country and the US buyer may be reluctant to return and purchase such an expensive item from so weak an organization that just may not be around to service it. And resale value has yet to be determined. These issues are are dicussed in detail in the book, especially with respect the usual forms of bankruptcy but good cars are built by many these days and one wonders how all of this will work out.

In many ways, this type of book will probably become required reading in business schools around the country. What happens when companies get too cocky, give too many concessions to labor in good times, are partially government regulated and where the product is no longer cutting edge. Yes cars have a lot of new technology in them but they have been around for a hundred years and others have mastered the art of making them as you would expect.

I'm sure that working with these powerful people would produce a powerful high, especially when in the Oval office. Many years ago on a Whitehouse tour I was in the Oval Office and even with only typical citizens present I could feel the power. The book helped me relive this experience somewhat as Rattner talks about the decisions and people there trying the get "facetime" with the president. I only hope that Rattner is right, they made the correct decisions in rapid time.
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