RX FOR RICHES: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Armand Hammer by Bob Considine

RX FOR RICHES: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Armand Hammer

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Considine's writing style goes onto any subject like a piece of contact paper on furniture, and with about as profound an effect. His biography of the Occidental Petroleum (""Oxy"") sultan--a self-made millionaire who engineered grain deals with Lenin, sold the Hearst art collection to the great unwashed in Gimbels, collected the finest herd of Black Angus Aberdeens in America, and finally turned his attention to oil at the age of fifty-nine--prudently masks all individuality with a thin film of unconvincing hagiography. Dr. Hammer (no relation to the baking-soda company) got waylaid by other interests on the way to a medical career; he was starting pencil factories in the USSR and collecting icons long before America recognized the Red government (or the Soviets recognized the value of their art heritage). He cornered the market on barrel staves just in time for the end of Prohibition, made forays into the grain alcohol, potato alcohol, and both bonded and blended bourbon markets, and found time for public-spirited gestures like buying Campobello to donate it to the U.S. and Canadian governments. Much is made here of Hammer's multimillion-dollar art collection and of his hobnobbings with the great. Not the slightest mention is made of a 1974 disagreement with the IRS about alleged overvaluation of art works Hammer used as charitable donations for tax purposes, or those other nasty allegations about channeling illegal contributions to Nixon's 1972 campaign through Governor Tim Babcock of Montana. The few legal squabbles Considine does mention are of course all due to the greed, malice, or underhandedness of others, and the disastrous slump in Oxy's stock since 1972 is blandly attributed to a tactless remark by the Secretary of Commerce pooh-poohing the huge fertilizer deal being negotiated between Oxy and the Russians. An instructive exercise in bowdlerization.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row