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.


About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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