THE KING OF CASH by Christopher Winans


The Inside Story of Laurence Tisch
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 A barely serviceable biography of the billionaire businessman who controls CBS Inc. from a journalist who doesn't quite know what to make of him. Drawing almost entirely on secondary sources, former Wall Street Journal reporter Winans (Malcolm Forbes, 1990) offers a narrative account of how the froglike Laurence (Larry) Tisch transformed himself into a merchant prince. After WW II service with the OSS, the precocious Brooklyn-born Tisch--who earned a Wharton MBA before turning 21--joined the family firm that operated a handful of resort hotels. As young Larry became adept at identifying, acquiring, and rehabilitating undervalued properties, the prospering enterprise moved into major metropolitan markets and gained a controlling interest in the Loews movie-theater chain in 1959. Tisch soon put this publicly held venture on a profitable basis and made it the vehicle for a series of lucrative investments, in Bulova, CNA Insurance, Lorillard, and other companies. Along his upward way, the businessman has had several brushes with disaster, as when he sold swindler Michele Sindona his stake in Franklin National Bank and was completely hoodwinked by the grifters responsible for the Equity Funding fraud. But the bargain-hunting, cash-flow-minded Tisch will be remembered most for his controversial stewardship of CBS. While the media reported his makeover campaign as an indefensible assault on one of their own, the broadcasting empire built by William Paley probably could not have survived as an independent entity without Tisch's cost-cutting measures. Beyond periodic reminders that his subject enjoys the quotidian challenges of major-league commerce, favors liquid reserves, and has no use for corporate executives who do not focus on the stockholders' best interests, Winans offers few clues as to what makes Larry run. The bottom line: An outsider's one-dimensional take on a consequential magnate whose achievements require a more accomplished Boswell.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-471-54923-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995