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Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World's Largest Derivatives Exchange Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Zero-Sum Game lets the reader get to know the colorful players and complex horse-trading that officially sent 'the Hatfields and the McCoys' to the altar of a successful corporate marriage."
--RICK SANTELLI, on-air editor, CNBC

"Commodities are now becoming more accessible to the public and will be more important than stocks in the future. Zero-Sum Game will help you understand the scene."
--JIM ROGERS, author of A Gift to My Children

"Zero-Sum Game is a positive-sum read. Olson provides an engaging tour of our largest derivatives exchanges, as well as the drama of an intense acquisition contest."
--STEVEN KAPLAN, Professor, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

"A vivid and engaging account of one of the most important deals of the last decade."
--GUHAN SUBRAMANIAN, Professor, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School

"Olson just painted the Sistine Chapel of LaSalle Street. Zero-Sum Game is a page-turning jolt of electricity--the perfect story to keep readers up all night."
--CRAIG T. BOUCHARD, co-founder, Esmark; co-author of America for Sale

From the Inside Flap

In 2007, a stranger-than-fiction multibillion-dollar bidding war for the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) erupted between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Atlanta's IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World's Largest Derivatives Exchange takes readers behind the scenes of this battle to tell the gripping, and often comical, story of how the historic merger between CME and CBOT almost didn't happen. Author Erika S. Olson--a former managing director at CBOT--reveals why these bitter crosstown enemies put aside more than a century of bad blood in order to form CME Group, a behemoth that now controls 98 percent of the regulated futures market in the United States. From fast food, electricity, and interest rates, to building materials, jewelry, and gas, the prices of countless products and services that companies and consumers use every day are influenced by contracts traded at CME Group.

Olson delivers a blow-by-blow account of the fight for the world's oldest futures exchange, taking you inside CBOT's landmark Chicago Loop headquarters, past security guards, onto the high-octane trading floor, and into executives' offices. Along the way, she makes the inner workings of futures exchanges accessible by explaining what these institutions do, how futures contracts work, and who benefits from investing in derivatives. She also provides background and insight on the men in control of this powerful, tight-knit, and frequently misunderstood industry.

Zero-Sum Game is the incredible inside story of how the world's largest and most diverse exchange came to be, how the creation of CME Group forever altered the landscape of the financial services industry, and what it all means for the global economy . . . and you.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470624205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470624203
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kristina on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a fun, interesting, well-written book! This is not your regular old business book, it is written in first person and has a ton of pop culture references. I raced through the book, enjoyed the plot, loved the character development and couldn't help but learn (and laugh) along the way.

Zero-Sum Game, a book about the merger between Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is an interesting read for industry veterans or those who are not part of the financial sector. I liked how Olson provided a quick overview/definition for each term, but then really focused on the fun/more interesting stuff which, again, really sets this book apart.

It is easy to follow, logically written, and kept me at the edge of my seat. I couldn't help feeling like I was along for the ride, as I followed Olson on her journey from her first interview at the Chicago Board of Trade through the day she looked back and noticed that the stature of Ceres appeared as though she was crying. Intricate and colorful character descriptions turn the main players alive and set a vivid stage for the reader.

Zero-Sum Game is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is candid, captivating and a definite page turner. I'm looking forward to Olson's next book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know Ms. Olson through her blogging and looked forward to reading it. I've also been through two merger experiences of my own and thought it'd be interesting to compare her experience with mine.

Olson is a more than competent writer. However, throughout the book she made choices regarding the overall organization of the material, the level of details (was she *really* an insider, given her inexperience at CBOT compared to those of her compatriots) what to share (and not share) that began for me as a letdown that escalated into full-blown disappointment. I do not entirely fault Olson, as in the hands of a different editor, this could have been a much different read.

While many reviewers liked the detailed descriptions of the "players" in the book, it was too much for me--a few paragraphs with salient details would have easily sufficed. When an author devotes 2-4 pages of material on a person's upbringing, education, and personal life over and over again, you as a reader expect that person to play a subsequent, prominent role. This was only true part of the time. About halfway through, I started skipping the CV portion of the book.

A small quibble: this was a book promoted as having pop culture references liberally sprinkled throughout. It does not. It is a book about futures and derivatives and the battle between CBOT and the Merc. The only pop culture references were the names of each chapter--the same device that Olson uses in her blogging. Anyone thinking they're going to get a dose of pop culture in this book will be disappointed.

Although Olson was in management, she came across more as a witness to the action rather than a participant. While she chronicles myriad meetings, the "indepth" details--as well as her participation--are hazy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This could have been a gripping story of the CME/CBOT merger. The battles of ego's, the clash of institutional cultures, and the intrigue and subsequent 'back room' dealing caused by the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) trying to outdo the CME. Unfortunately Ms. Olson doesn't come off as an insider who really knew what was going on. She spouts a great deal of names but never really gives the reader a feeling of the person behind the name. She gives a little brief Bio of many of the player's but doesn't get us to identify with them. She describes one as 'stoned faced', another as being 'liked by all', but this is about the extent of her character development.

She has the same superficiality when describing the various meetings. She gives the days of the meeting, sometimes the hours but never gets much past that. She'll say that there was 'tension'. Okay - why not tell us more about that? What were the dynamics of the tension. Who blew up at whom? Who shied away from conflict? It could have made for great theater.

Overall it appears that she got most of her information from discussion at the water-cooler and never really had the inside track on what was going on. And if she did, she wasn't able to translate that knowledge into a emotionally driven, tense and exciting read. Too bad.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who do not work in finance, Zero-Sum Game offers a rational explanation of the futures market and sheds light on the mystery that is derivatives. I was captivated by the author's play-by-play recollection of the massive, intricate, and exhausting merger between the CME and CBOT. I would love to hear from the CME and CBOT players' spouses during this period to see how their home life was affected by the emotional roller coaster that was this merger; there is a book in there, too, which I'd like to write. I also really appreciated the author's simple and effective explanations, which are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Ms. Olsen does a wonderful job revealing the point of derivatives to the lay person, especially at the book's beginning. This is important because it offers a rational insight during a time when derivatives have been so vilified. My favorite characters were probably Will Vicars and Jeff Sprecher; I found myself envious of such smart, creative, and gutsy people. I think I'd like to be them for a year or two. Overall, the writing is on-point and accessible, which I absolutely mean as a compliment. The narrative never lags: once we pass one hurdle, another one is inevitably placed before us, which keeps the reader interested and invested. I look forward to reading Ms. Olsen's future work and recommend this book for anyone, not just those in the financial industry.
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