A thoughtful, thorough evaluation of the personalities and perceptions that led Time Inc. to join forces with Warner Communications. Clurman (a former Time insider) leaves little doubt that his erstwhile employer got the worst of the deal that created the world's largest media conglomerate. Drawing on personal contacts, documentary material, and allied sources, he recounts how the magazine/cable-TV empire floundered during the go-go 1980's. The frustrated Time brass proved no match for Steve Ross, a silky- smooth article who ran Warner's show-biz domain as if it were a personal fiefdom. For all his ingratiating suavity, though, Ross apparently had a checkered record as a manager, a notably glitzy lifestyle, a shady past, and other closeted skeletons—which Time directors all but ignored in their eagerness to consummate a union. (Clurman's coverage of these points seems certain to make news since it includes previously undisclosed and damning excerpts from a lengthy report on an inquiry, commissioned by the Warner board, into the role Ross played in a corruption scandal that led to the conviction of several of his closest associates.) At any rate, a stock-swap bargain was struck, which had to be ruinously revised when Time was obliged to fight off an all-cash tender from Gulf & Western. Under terms of the eventual accord, Warner investors fared extremely well, Time Inc. stockholders endured capital punishment, and the amalgamated enterprise staggered into an uncertain future with a crushing load of debt. Nor, Clurman makes clear, have prospects improved appreciably: co-CEO Ross alienated Main Street as well as Wall Street earlier this year with a decidedly dubious rights offering; hit movies have been hard to come by; and recession, adverse demographic trends, rival media, and in-house expedience have taken a terrible toll on the magazine group. An unsparing and altogether engrossing account of the awkward, one-way alliance that resulted when the gentlemanly heirs to a house that journalism built fancied they could do business on an equal footing with a latter-day Sammy Glick.
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