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The Chairman: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – Dec 27 2005

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett; Reprint edition (Dec 27 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345457617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345457615
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 10.7 x 17.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #413,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 4 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book isn't even entertaining, and considering that's its purpose for existing, that means you should give it a pass. It has something to do with how big money managers supposedly act and there's some absurd murder mystery going on. Read it if you must.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 49 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
(3 1/2) Worth Reading Despite Unrealized Potential April 17 2005
By Tucker Andersen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The factors which have made several of Stephen's Frey's previous novels extremely enjoyable are his detailed knowledge of the financial markets and investment industry together with his ability to create action filled plots with enough misdirection to maintain the reader's interest. Thus, I have been willing to overlook what I regard as their main failures - the minimal character development with the usual exception of his central character and the completely unrealistic assumption (usually central to his plots) that desperate business leaders in positions of power who find their secrets or wealth threatened will routinely resort to murder in an attempt to solve their problems. Unfortunately, the plots of his recent books have gotten more unbelievable and extreme; THE CHAIRMAN continues that trend. In addition, this book suffers from several instances of extremely sloppy editing and a conclusion that fails to tie up several loose ends and leaves in doubt the fate of one of the major characters. My four star rating is due to the fact that my enjoyment of the plot, the strong character development of THE CHAIRMAN Christian Gillette, and a few other positive factors outlined below offset the several negative aspects which I will mention. Approximately half way through the story, I was actually tempted to speed read to the conclusion; I was sufficiently hooked to want to follow the plot to its conclusion but was increasingly frustrated at times by excesses in which the author indulged. However, the relative brevity combined with some interesting insights made me glad that I paid attetion to the details until the conclusion.

The story opens with Christian Gillette delivering the euology for Bill Donovan, the founder and former Chairman of Everest Capital, one of largest, most successful, and most powerful private equity partnerships in the world. Donovan's unexpected death has led to the necessity of invoking the stipulation in the partnership's operating agreement to choose a sucessor within three days; Gillette is now THE CHAIRMAN after a controversial and razor thin vote. He knows that he will need to consolidate his power quickly - both with regard to several individuals within Everest (particularly his previously three co-equal managers Troy Mason, Ben Cohen and Nigel Faraday) and also with regard to the many competitors who would be waiting for any indication of weakness or uncertainty on his part. While the police investigation has ruled Donovan's death a tragic accident, Gillette's concern that it might indeed have resulted from foul play is heightened when he narrowly escapes death during an attempt on his life as he leaves the church which results in the death of two innocent bystanders. Immediately, we are treated to the high degree of implausibilty often encountered in the story when everyone at the funeral immediately proceeds to the reception at the mansion now owned by Donovan's widow and acts as if it were business as usual and the fiery explosion and resultant deaths had not occurred. Such behavior is totally ridiculous, both from the standpoint of the emotional impact which it would exact and also police procedure. And what is frustrating is that neither the author or his editor apparently cared that his goals in writing this sequence of events as he did could have been accomplished in a much more believable manner with a fairly simple rewrite that would have made the story much more believable. Such unnecessarily dramatic or over the top scenes occurred throughout the book. One further example that I will mention is the supposed background fact that private equity gunslingers routinely achieve returns of 50 to 100 percent a year. Frey knows this is hyperbole, and furthermore it is totally unnecessary to the plot.

The story races along as Gillette is faced with the need to act on several fronts simultaneously; he confronts a problem by almost immediately firing one of his rivals, then is forced to respond to an offer by a major firm to purchase an energy company in Everest's portfolio which may have an acreage position with huge undiscovered reserves. He soon decides to begin to raise the capital for the next Everest fund, and strives to maintain cordial relations with Donovan's widow, whose unexpected support provided his slim margin of victory and who retains a huge financial interst in the firm. As the story proceeds, further attempts are made on Gillette's life; other actors in this convoluted drama are actually murdered. In a key move Gillette eschews the protection provided by the security firm owned by Everest and hires Quentin Stiles, a security expert with whom he gradually establishes an interesting rapport and an unexpected degree of trust. Nevertheless, events continue to escalate beyond his control and dangers seemed to multiply both to Everest Capital and to his personal safety as well.

Segments of this story are very realistic, and it is made even more enjoyable by the fact that many of these fictional individuals and companies seem to be patterned after similar real life examples. Furthermore, I found the technique of beginning each chapter (with the exception of the final three) with a brief definition that a provided a necessary introduction and/or summary of the subject matter to be very effective. Some are very insightful, e.g. the comment that while our routines allow us the comfort of maintaining order in our lives and avoiding anarchy, they also allow us to avoid original thought and create opportunity for an enemy. The comments in another chapter concerning the benefits of seeking confrontation in the search for progress were also very apropos. In addition, the complexity of Gillette's character is gradually revealed in a clever manner as the story unfolds, often during his interactions with Stiles. Unfortunately, just as in the case of the plot, some elements are carried to such extremes as to lessen the credibility of the portrait that is drawn.

In summary, I decided that the many enjoyable elements of this story outweighed the substantial negatives by a sufficient margin to round up my rating to four stars. But I want to emphasize how sloppy the editing is. While I can't go into detail without providing a spoiler, during the climactic scene one of the participants faces additional danger because there are no cellphone signals in the rural backwater where the action occurs; yet a few seconds later when it becomes necessary for the plot to succeed his adversary in the same location receives a crucial call on his cell phone. If these sort of inexplicable and unnecessary errors ruin your enjoyment of a story, then skip this book. Otherwise, while you may be as frustrated as I was by the unrealized potential of THE CHAIRMAN, you should still find it enjoyable.

One final note: congratulations to the publishers for pricing this slim volume appropriately and at a discount to most hardcovers by established authors. I have become increasingly frustrated at the number of relatively brief novels (often with large print and lots of wasted blank pages) which provide little value for their list prices in excess of $25. This book is a welcome exception.

Tucker Andersen
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Corporate World at it's Very Worst June 26 2008
By B. Cable - Published on
Format: Hardcover
First of all, let me state forthwith that I certainly don't consider myself to be a moralist, Anchorite, Anarchist or any other like kind. But nonetheless, I found the characters in this book to be absolutely appalling. At the very beginning of the novel, Chris Gillette, who after working with his peers for a decade suddenly becomes its Chairman, states immediately, "you will now call me Christian". The author may just as well have substituted "Your Excellency" with "Christian." And from that point on the tone of the book seems to be set. Only one other reviewer seems to have been disturbed by the central character's flawed behavior, and stated "in terms of extreme behavior, Frey's corporate world would put Caligula's court to shame. Spot on. I am recently retired from an ultra competitive Fortune 50 company myself, and coming from a very high level of upper management what I found most lacking in this novel was any form of business ethics, and most importantly, honor. I am not naive, and yes the business world today is ruthless and hardcore, but I found that the most successful people, even while being competitive and ruthless, still have a sense of honor, and not always, but for the most part, demand it from those around them. If not, they are doomed, both as a person and as an executive. No man is an Island. This book is a horrible example for young people, who espouse to become successful executives themselves. I just hope that they won't come away thinking that dishonorable behavior is as acceptable and commonplace in Corporate America as is displayed within this novel. I hope they realize that honor and fairness are important and still have meaning, and that this book is fiction, and not very good fiction at that.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
great writing, less than solid ending. July 24 2010
By clifford - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
wow. Frey as an author has produced several tight stories over the last decade. The Chairman is his best work. A good third of the story is just deal making. The Chairman starts off with Gillette (the main character) at a funeral. Gillette is the newly minted CEO of the 2nd largest private equity company in the U.S. The funeral is for the ex CEO who died in mysterious circumstances. But the story doesn't go into this for quite a while. Instead Frey spends a good chunk of the novels real estate just talking back room deals. Its sort of like the God Father with Don Corleone in the back room at the wedding while he's making life & death decisions.

I may be remembering how I feel about Frey in a negative light. But it seems to me that I have always almost really enjoyed every one of his books. And I stress the 'almost'. His characters are always stand-offish. He writes in an almost impersonal manner. For the first time he has found a protagonist here in 'The Chairman' where this negative turns into a positive. Gillette is a brutal CEO. Time and time again he is relentless and ugly. But as a reader, you forgive him for this... after all he is a CEO of a powerful modern business entity. What else would you expect. One mistake that Frey makes however, is about half way through he shifts the character of Gillette and tries to make him a Coben style everyman hero... odd and doesn't work. So over the ending of this story Gillette switches between good guy/evil CEO.

One thing that struck me was how mysterious this whole book was for the first half at least. The story starts, as I said, at a funeral. Its chaos. 20 small deals and stories are told in rapid fire. This helps flesh out the characters and the situation... but we still dont know what the heck is going on... what this story is about. The confusion continues on for at least 200 pages. We learn that a lot of negatives are hovering around the company, but again, what else would you expect of a gigantic corporation? Like normal life, you the reader and Gillette, the protagonist dont know whats going on at all. Frey deftly turns this into a solid bit of suspense.

Im taking off a star for the ending. It falls apart over the last two chapters as the very huge jumble of story threads starts to get resolved. Besides that, the story shifts focus about 2/3's of the way in. Instead of working with the reader in real time and following Gillette as he reacts to the moment, Frey has Gillette seemingly find out what is going on and he slowly fills in the missing pieces for the reader. This is frustrating, too cute, and a ploy too many other authors use to keep up suspense. However, this is the least suspenseful part of the book. Its disconcerting to follow Gillette while he knows what might be happening and you the reader are totally lost. Lastly, one character in the story, (Isabella), what the heck? this character does nothing but add a huge layer of confusion.

still. A lot to like here. Worth reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Unrealistic Corporate World May 7 2006
By Richard C. Mingorance - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had mixed feelings while reading this novel. On the one hand, Stephen Frey spins an exciting corporate tale, chock-full of intrigue, plot twists, and surprises. On the other hand, the corporate atmosphere described by Frey is too byzantine and over-the-top to be taken seriously. The private equity world that the author depicts is an ultra-competitive realm of capitalistic extremes populated by murderers, espionage, constant double-crossing, never-ending back stabbings, and sexual excesses. In terms of extreme behavior, Frey's corporate world would put Caligula's court to shame. It is simply too much! Even though we live in a world where corporate shenanigans do occur (i.e. Enron and Worldcom), Frey's storyline is too much to stomach.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A rollercoaster until the end Feb. 27 2006
By C. Miller - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book I liked with the numerous subplots, characters and twists. The bodyguard relationship could have been used more for comedy purposes, but it was enough to let you know he will be back in future books with these characters.

However to make this short since the other reviewers did a great job too, the ending was a disappointment for me. The book was on the path to have a great twisting ending, and it did come. But to a screeching halt. It was like you were in the middle of the action and then it stopped...hard. All of the suddent you were in the middle of explanations of how everything fell together, instead of evolving.

I would still make this on the list to recommend to everyone.

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