An excruciatingly factual account of the “profit taking” schemes that made Thomas Mellon Evans and his corporate-raiding contemporaries fabulously wealthy in the postwar era.
Although he presents it as the personal story of Thomas Evans, New York Times reporter Henriques (Fidelity's World, 1995) has actually produced something more on the order of a textbook covering the men and ideas behind some of the nation’s first and most notorious proxy fights. The players include Lou Wolfson (a shareholders’-rights crusader who defended his tactics before Congress), Robert Young (the sometime poet who was the first to use public relations and advertising to take his message to shareholders), and Charlie Green (an investor in 20th Century Fox who, snubbed on a visit to the studio lot, waged and lost a major proxy battle with that firm). Evans, however, appears to have used proxy fights simply to accomplish his aim of obsessively building his portfolio and personal wealth. His methods included low-balling old women who were trying to protect their families’ fortunes, and he was particularly keen to target firms that were “family run by a third-generation Yale man who spends his afternoons drinking martinis at the club.” Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell what exactly Henriques thinks of all this, and her reverently dispassionate tone hardly fits into the winner-take-all world she is describing. Nor is it clear why she found Evans interesting. Of one Evans proxy fight, she declares: “It is intriguing that no one wondered aloud or in print why Tom Evans, who was immensely rich, bothered to wage such a bitter expensive battle simply to take control of a paper company.” A reader might well ask Henriques the same question.
Ultimately boring, but good reference material. (8-page photo insert, not seen)