ON A ROLL by Howard Jonas


From Hot Dog Buns to High-Tech Billions
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The founder and CEO of the renegade International Discount Telecommunications firm (IDT) has passed his 40th birthday. He reckons it’s time to tell his life story. A proud graduate of the redoubtable Bronx High School of Science and a really proud drop- out from Harvard (which he found “intellectually sterile, arrogant, closeminded and unfriendly”), Jonas is the exuberant embodiment of freewheeling entrepreneurial chutzpah. He started making money at 14 with a homemade hot dog stand. The junior achiever graduated to further profits via mail order, hawking such gimcrackery as horoscopes, pet plants, and ordinary seedlings marketed as nascent bonsai trees. Sure, some promotions may sound somewhat marginal to readers who don’t share the Jonas spirit. But accept his assurances that he’s no scam artist. He’s just a straightforward self-made businessman, honest to a fault “pathologically honest,” as he puts it. The scrapes that often threaten to thwart his honest efforts, especially his pains in completing IDT’s initial public offering, have been the work of Wall Street insiders, government bureaucrats, AT&T, or the fickle media (which occasionally could be helpful; after a while, the press “adulated” the firm). Between espousals of libertarian doctrine, Jonas does turns as an avuncular metaphysician, waxing profound about society, business, and life in general. Within the genial multimillionaire hustler is a closet rabbi, humbly reflecting on the human condition. Indeed, Jonas personifies real humanity, crediting his success to loyal colleagues and providence, as well as to his own creativity. His devotion to his wife and eight kids is patent. Most folks will find it hard to keep up with the Jonases. Not likely to become required reading at Harvard Business School, but nevertheless more engaging than it has any right to be.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-87902-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998