Savvy, balanced perspectives on a decade during which corporate America underwent convulsive change at the hands of Wall Street. A former Goldman Sachs partner who now teaches at NYU, Smith (The Global Bankers, 1989) notes early on that the boom in takeovers and leveraged buyouts, which to a very great extent deemed the 1980's, was the fourth restructuring of US industry in this century. Before examining the recent past, then, he offers thoughtful analyses of wheeler-dealers at work in yesteryears—for example, the merger mania of 1900 (when J.P. Morgan helped establish US Steel), the breakup of the trusts and Henry Ford's LBO during the Roaring Twenties, and the emergence of conglomerates in the Go-Go Sixties. Closer to the present, Smith casts a cool eye on such high-profile deals as the Beatrice breakup, the RJR-Nabisco buyout, the acquisition of Macmillan (by the UK's Robert Maxwell), the Time/Warner get-together, and the siege of Polaroid. As a practical matter, he concludes, oft-maligned raiders and other opportunists did some good; thanks to their undeniably self-interested efforts, many uncompetitive enterprises were revivified and laggards were encouraged to improve their performance while shareholders profited handsomely. Innovative financiers like Michael Milken also get credit for their creativity, if not ethical standards, in supplying the investment capital that (at no small cost) underwrote the latest makeover of big business in the US. An authoritative, anecdotal wrap-up that puts the dramatic, disruptive, and frequently painful marketplace events of the 1980's into clear historical context.
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