IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES by Doron Levin

IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES

Ross Perot versus Gene
By

KIRKUS REVIEW

Ross Perot's run-in with General Motors was widely perceived as a clash of symbols: Sunbelt entrepreneur in conflict with the rigid bureaucrats of an old-line industrial colossus. The facts of the matter were a good deal more complicated, and Levin (Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times) provides an absorbing, evenhanded account of the falling-out that neither lionizes the charismatic Perot nor trashes his most visible adversary, GM Chairman Roger Smith. Annapolis grad Perot, founder of Electronic Data Services, has earned a formidable reputation as a New Age businessman. In addition to building an enviably profitable computer concern from scratch, he engineered the rescue of employees held hostage in Iran and took on the football-oriented educational establishment in his native Texas. There have been setbacks--notably, an abortive and expensive effort to rescue a foundering Wall Street brokerage during the early 1970's; on balance, however, Perot has been a high-profile winner most of his adult life. By contrast, Smith has pursued a more ordered course. Joining GM as an accountant in 1949. he climbed the corporate ladder, reaching the top in 1980 at age 55. The jury is still out on Smith's resolve to transform Motown's highest-cost, lowest-quality car maker into an ultrahigh-tech enterprise via internal development and acquisition. Short run, though, the 1984 takeover of EDS--which made the freewheeling and outspoken Perot a director--proved a high-decibel culture shock. Almost immediately, the two self-confident principals began feuding over integrating EDS into GM, restoring the parent organization's competitiveness, and a host of other issues. Eventually, Perot was paid over $700 million to quite the board and go his own way. There are no heroes in Levin's vivid narrative, which documents the miscalculations, stubborn pride, and personal pique that characterized both sides in the struggle for control of a great corporation. An inspired addition to the annals of significant corporate rivalries. The text has illustrations (not seen).

Pub Date: April 6th, 1989
ISBN: 316-52211-2
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:




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