Barbarians at the Gate has been called one of the most influential business books of all time -- the definitive account of the largest takeover in Wall Street history. Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's gripping account of the frenzy that overtook Wall Street in October and November of 1988 is the story of deal makers and publicity flaks, of strategy meetings and society dinners, of boardrooms and bedrooms -- giving us not only a detailed look at how financial operations at the highest levels are conducted but also a richly textured social history of wealth at the twilight of the Reagan era.
Barbarians at the Gate -- a business narrative classic -- is must reading for everyone interested in the way today's world really works.
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October 21, 2003
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Excerpt from Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough
Ross's philosophy is, "We're going to have a party, a very sophisticated, complicated party."
-- 0.C. Adams, consulting psychologist to RJR Nabisco
Ross Johnson was being followed. A detective, he guessed, no doubt hired by that old skinflint Henry Weigl. Every day, through the streets of Manhattan, no matter where Johnson went, his shadow stayed with him. Finally he had had enough. Johnson had friends, lots of them, and one in particular who must have had contacts in the goon business. He had this annoying problem, Johnson explained to his friend. He'd like to get rid of a tail. No problem, said the friend. Sure enough, within days the detective vanished. Whatever the fellow was doing now, Johnson's friend assured him, he was probably walking a little funny.
It was the spring of 1976, and at a second-tier food company named Standard Brands, things were getting ugly. Weigl, its crusty old chairman, was out to purge his number two, Johnson, the shaggy-haired young Canadian who pranced about Manhattan with glamorous friends such as Frank Gifford and "Dandy" Don Meredith. Weigl sicced a team of auditors on Johnson's notoriously bloated expense accounts and collected tales of his former protýgý's extramarital affairs.
Johnson's hard-drinking band of young renegades began plotting a counterattack, lobbying directors and documenting all the underlying rot in the company's businesses. Rumors of an imminent coup began sweeping the company's Madison Avenue headquarters.