BIG DEAL by Bruce Wasserstein

BIG DEAL

The Battle for Control of America's Leading Corporations
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Everything you could ever want to know about big business deals (as long as you don’t want to think too deeply about them). More akin to People magazine than an economic tract, the emphasis here is on people and headlines; this is not the place to seek insight into the broader implications of changing corporate structures for the economy or the nation, or grand theories of private enterprise. As a participant in mega-mergers for many years (including the Time-Warner merger) as a lawyer and banker, Wasserstein (With Justice For Some, 1971) provides an insider’s account that is journalistic, fun, and basically uncritical. The volume is loosely organized into sections on history, specific industries, and tactics, but the mode of operation throughout is storytelling. Beginning with the battle between QVC chairman Barry Diller and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone over the acquisition of Paramount, we meet the major players—always profiled in sidebars to provide a more personalized view of the conflicts—in the business deals that have dominated headlines in the past and especially recent years. The nomenclature is explained along the way, and in a world where you could encounter white knights or squires, poison pills, bear hugs, shark repellents, an IPO, the LIBOR, or even LBOs, this is no small contribution. The discussions of activity in the financial, telecommunications, and health- care industries are especially interesting, but few if any stones are left unturned: Wasserstein possesses a truly encyclopedic knowledge of corporate merger activity, and he shares it. Indeed, a more rigorous selection of material illustrating clearer themes in a shorter volume might have produced a more powerful book; the lack of anything that could be called a conclusion illustrates the somewhat directionless quality of the narrative. Nevertheless, Wasserstein’s effort is informative and entertaining. (Radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: April 27th, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-52268-6
Page count: 832pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998