THE TYCOONS by Arthur M. Louis


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This is for people who like to think they're reading about something, but really just like to hear big-business talk. There is a scheme: the umpteen tycoons featured (or making bit appearances) are placed into categories, more or less according to something or other that propelled them to the top. These are not, however, footsteps in which others can follow. One is the Great Depression--which our ""future tycoons"" (Luce of Con Ed, Murphy of GM, Mahoney of Norton Simon), most of them privileged youths, ""saw primarily as a personal, practical challenge,"" or ""every man for himself."" Another is World War II--when some of the tycoons (Connor of Merck, Thornton of Litton Industries) ""got a vital boost simply by meeting the right people."" There follow ""Boy Wonders""--men who became c.e.o, at a mere 40 or so (Wriston of Citibank, Kendall of PepsiCo); ""Marathon Men""--who worked their way up through the ranks (Brown of AT&T, Murphy of GM, Beck of Prudential); ""Job Jumpers""--right along to ""Entrepreneurs"" and ""Heirs."" Author Louis has a thing or two to say along the way about changing times and shifting perceptions, about what mode of approach works where. Mostly, though, he just recounts his subjects' stories, without particular reverence (""Evidently it helps to be a bit of an SOB""), or particularly sharp scrutiny. (Workadays, he writes profiles for Fortune magazine.) But some of the men have, or have had, significant public connections--Mike Blumenthal, John Connor, Roy Ash. And a very few are refreshingly forthright: Thomas Mellon Evans, a once-poor Mellon who gloats that his deprecated takeover tactics (which netted him two Fortune 500 companies) are now s.o.p, in the best circles; Du Pont's Irving Shapiro, who opted for corporate law because ""I was a quiet young man, not very distinguishable from a lot of other young men, and I felt I played better in this setting."" His is the ultimate Jewish Horatio Alger story--here dubbed ""Born to Lead."" So it's not exactly hackneyed--even if none of it will be news to readers of the business press.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster