Review: Burrough’s Barbarians at the Gate

One among many reviews originally published on livejournal in 2007 and now reposted here for posterity.

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Brian Burrough

I am a connoisseur of the business bestseller. I read ‘em all, and this one is among the best featuring conniving and scheming on a massive scale. Extremely unlikable rich assholes brought low by equally unsavory, but way smarter, rich people. I don’t know what this says about me, but I find it strangely satisfying to read as one ultra-wealthy businessman is out maneuvered by another.

It’s the story of an attempt to take RJR Nabisco private, and then a series of takeover attempts that were instigated by the original privatization plan. Johnson, the CEO of RJR comes off as a dick, and not very smart at all. He’s like a frat boy who gets by glad handing people and buying rounds of drinks – i.e. the kind of rich guy I hate the most. Kravis, of legendary take over firm KKR, is the smarter man who comes in for the kill. He is portrayed here like a financier god. Brilliant, pushy, and beyond you puny human morals. Guess who gets the company in the end.

If business tell-alls are your thing, you’ve probably already read this classic of the genre. If not, do so.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

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