To start explaining this book you must understand that the book has been written by two investigative reporters, so it reads like a well written novel. In fact with some of these books you must remind yourself that it is not fiction.
The other thing is that the authors emphasize the people and what they think, their motivations, their egos and their vulnerabilities. It is not a financial book. It is more of a novel. When you combine the writing plus with the emphasis on the people you get a best seller - as we have.
Here is the situation. The CEO's of some of these corporations get greedy and decide that making millions per year and having a fleet of their own jets - is not enough. They want to borrow money and buy the whole company. That is what we had here. The CEO Ross Johnson proposes a leveraged buy out (LBO) of RJR-Nabisco, which had previously merged. His idea is to borrow money and buy all the stock. So it is really a story about Ross Johnson and whether or not he could pull of this (theft) purchase from the shareholders by borrowing enough money. He is abetted by bankers and investment people, and they all want a piece of the action and large fees. It is all quite fascinating stuff.
But he hits a snag. The prize is too big and draws other people into the fray.
Like sharks smelling blood in the water he attracts KKR runs by Henry Kravis - a New York based LBO company. It decides it wants to get involved. The book takes us like a suspense novel through various negotiations and heavy duty meetings in Manhattan until it is finally settled. It makes for a fascinating read.
Recently I read another book that I thought was quite different but just excellent. Ross Johnson in the present book RJR-Nabisco was the CEO of a large public company and he became such by working his way up through the ranks. To me a more fascinating book is Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson also at Amazon.com. Branson starts his career by himself selling a magazine as a teenager, starts Virgin Records, takes on and beats back British Airways with Virgin Airways, and does it all with a flair for the dramatic - and often he owns the companies.
Jack in Toronto