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When N.Y.'s Martin and Evelyn Stein, 50-ish founder-managers of the prosperous Wanda boutique-soap company, are wooed by California health-food conglomerateur Jason Coy in 1971, Martin is excited about the proposed merger, about Jason's big plans for ""the first full line of nutritional cosmetics in the market."" However, wife-partner Evelyn--narrator of this likable, mildly satiric business novel--is more ambivalent: country-boyish Coy, while not so crass as other promoters, is an odd bachelor (perhaps a woman-hater) who says ""wowie"" and ""magic"" a lot; his cosmetician is an 80-year-old Hungarian obsessed with chicken embryos; and business meetings in Los Angeles (""we 'interfaced' up and down Wilshire Boulevard"") are rampant with vitamin-popping, ""sexy"" ad talk, and heavy jargon. Still, the potential is too great to pass up. So Martin and Evelyn go ahead, only to find their supposed ""autonomy"" within the conglomerate a farce (their new Coy-appointed controller is an interfering incompetent)--and when they play it safe by planning to sell most of their stock in the upcoming public-issue, Coy takes it personally and begins a full-scale campaign to force the Steins out of their own company: lawsuits; clodhopping efficiency-experts and managers who infect long-trusted employees, color-code all memos (""Gawd, how did Wanda make do all these years? One color paper!""), redesign everything, and thoroughly foul up the company. Finally, then, after a momentary truce to make the public stock-issue possible, Martin and Evelyn do get out with a fair-sized cash haul. . . before the Coy empire fizzles forever. First-novelist Suss, a former cosmetics exec, is clearly angry about such destructive takeovers, and nice points are scored off the hulking, fatuous nouveau-managers. But most of the satire here--health food, corporate jargon--is awfully dated and tame, making this an agreeable little fable that's mostly for those with a special interest in either the merger details or the soap/cosmetic-biz milieu.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1980
Publisher: Taplinger