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Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry [Hardcover]

Steven Rattner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 20 2010

“Steven Rattner shows a journalist's eye for detail . . . Overhaul is a feast of political and financial intrigue.” —Detroit Free Press

In Overhaul, Steven Rattner delivers an inside account of the Obama administration's bold bid to save the auto industry. From his vantage point at the helm of the intervention, Rattner crafts a tightly plotted narrative of political brinksmanship, corporate incompetence, and personalities under pressure in a high-stakes drama of Washington and Detroit. He also explains the tough choices he and his team made to keep Chrysler and GM in operation—while working against the clock in the face of intense lobbying from staunch Democratic allies and vocal opposition from free-market partisans.
     Overhaul is a candid, gripping story of one of the most difficult crises of President Obama's first year in office, with lessons relevant for all managers and executives.

“[An] exhaustive, detailed account . . . Overhaul will certainly be on the bookshelf of every bankruptcy attorney in the country, and become required reading for public policy and law students.” —New York Times

“Unquestionably the best book so far about the Obama presidency.” —Slate

With a new epilogue


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Review

"Obama auto czar Rattner delivers a vigorous account of the bailout of the automobile industry -- a success, though one fraught with controversy... A fine inside-baseball account of how things can get done when people agree to get them done, even in Washington." --Kirkus Reviews

"OVERHAUL is filled with delicious descriptions of what happened behind the scenes in the White House and at the Treasury Department as the effort to save GM and Chrysler unfolded... a riveting read." --Wall Street Journal

"Required reading." --New York Times

"[a] compelling story about how government reacts to economic crisis...Rattner's book is an extraordinary account of how government, brandishing the stick of bankruptcy, was able in a few months to accomplish tremendous restructuring of a major American industry in ways that had eluded the private sector for half a century or more. (His material on GM's clueless management is truly priceless.)" --Slate.com


"Unquestionably the best book so far about the Obama presidency" --Slate.com


"[OVERHAUL] offers a careful, but lively, account of the auto industry bailout. Rattner takes us from the very beginning, when the Bush Administration was still in charge and two Detroit automakers were on the verge of total collapse, almost until the present day, when one of the companies (General Motors) seems to be thriving and the other (Chrysler) seems at least to be surviving." --NewRepublic.com

"While there have been other books about the Obama administration, this is the first from the inside and it is full of glimpses behind the curtain that we usually have to wait four years to see….The best parts of “Overhaul” are the vivid pictures Rattner paints of the economic team.” –Bloomberg News

“Steven Rattner shows a journalist's eye for detail….OVERHAUL is a feast of political and financial intrigue.” – Detroit Free Press

"With lively reconstructions of meetings in the Oval Office, Rattner shows the struggle over whether government should intervene….persuasive…illuminating…After Team Auto, GM has a much cleaner balance sheet and is set for a stock market flotation before theend of the year. The government might well get its money back. So those who think Obama is bad for business should read Overhaul. But anyone who believes in the fiction of arm’s-length government investment will find some corrective facts, too." -- Financial Times

"Overhaul" is not a Washington memoir, even though it is set in Washington, and it involves one of the most deeply politicized issues in recent memory. It is a Wall Street memoir, a book about one of the biggest private-equity deals in history....unexpectedly fascinating" - Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

"Overhaul is required reading to understand the auto industry." - Motor Trend


"[a] surprisingly modest account…Rattner has a journalistic talent for the telling detail, resulting in a memorable tale of life in the middle of the economic meltdown….Rattner deftly draws portraits of the inhabitants of "the Oval" and the West Wing….Rattner has proved himself a gifted chronicler." - Time Magazine

"[Rattner] writes lucidly and does a good job of balancing reportage and opinion. He gives us a useful record of both what the auto bailout looked like from inside the process and what the U.S. government looks like -- when it's working and when it is not. From both angles, this is a comprehensive, useful and readable look under the hood." - Knowledge@Wharton (UPenn)

About the Author

As Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Rattner led the Administration’s efforts to restructure the auto industry. Prior to that, he was Managing Principal of Quadrangle Group, LLC. At Lazard Frères & Co. he was Deputy Chairman/Deputy Chief Executive Officer, after tenures at Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers. He was also employed by the New York Times for nearly nine years, principally as an economic correspondent. He continues to write for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Financial Times. He lives in New York.


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5.0 out of 5 stars engaging March 19 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A look into the auto crisis by an insider is very interesting, great writing, lots of interesting story lines and first hand impressions of the major players.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
107 of 116 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Rattner: Smart, Detailed, Self-Serving Sept. 16 2010
By Mark Twain - Published on Amazon.com
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? Loans are secured by a well-tested set of rights and claims that the auto task force trampled. As a banker, Rattner ought to have more to say about this and ought to wrestle more honestly with the implications of his decisions (which, for the record, I think were unpleasant but ultimately justified).

Rattner's third gift is one he could live without. Like many at the top of Wall St. or Washington, he has an instinctive ability to ingratiate himself with the powerful and to promote himself effectively. In a writer, it makes the book into a brochure on the remarkable abilities of Steve Rattner. It reads like the work of a guy who is determined to quickly write the first draft of history with himself at the center. Rattner mentions repeatedly that he dipped into his Wall St. fortune to buy lunches for people meeting with him at Treasury, that getting confirmed cost him $400 grand, that he worked 18 hour days, and that but for his deft brilliance, the entire "auto caper" would have come a cropper. He repeats his love for his boss Larry Summers ad nauseum, describes Obama in quasi-mystical terms, shares the minimum plausible credit with his obviously talented and committed team (especially Ron Bloom, his talented deputy who played a critical role in structuring deals that all parties could either live with or be forced to live with). Rattner glosses over his "pay to play" ethical improprieties that ultimately forced his resignation and led his partners at Quadrangle to denounce his behavior and pay a $7 million fine. In many ways, this is vintage Washington kiss and tell: Rahm swears, Larry is smart, the President is awesome. It's a great story told well by an author with an unnatural fondness for the first person voice. Rattner was there -- and he never for a moment lets you forget it.

Egos aside however, the American people owe Rattner, Bloom, and the entire task force an enormous debt of gratitude. Working inside the US government (not at all easy), facing an unprecedented economic crisis, and under extraordinary time, financial, and political pressure, a small team pulled off the largest restructuring in the history of capitalism. They forced GM and Chrysler to take medicine that they should have taken years ago. It appears to have worked against all odds and Rattner tells the story well -- even if he never lets the action stray far from his self-absorbed gaze.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok Book Jan. 27 2011
By amr88 - Published on Amazon.com
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.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Giant Social Experiment Sept. 30 2010
By BostonAaron - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated Nov. 16 2010
By Bernard Chapin - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid insider's story of the auto-industry rescue Nov. 18 2010
By Pranay Gupte - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is such a gripping book that, sitting in my apartment in Dubai, I simply could not put it down. Steve Rattner has a novelist's eye for detail, and a reporter's ability for organizing his material. I have recommended "Overhaul" to just about everybody. It tells you about how policy-making works in Washington, and how to navigate through the political shoals of the nation's capital. Rattner -- a former colleague at The New York Times, and a longtime friend -- is simply splendid in this book. He could have hogged its internal headlines, but he has been wise enough to share credit with Team Auto. The fact that GM's IPO is such a success bears testimony to his savvy and methodology. (GM and Chrysler were the two auto companies that Rattner re-made.) Well done, Steve, and may you write many more books.
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