BILLIONAIRE

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SIR JAMES GOLDSMITH

Familiarity, it seems, does not always breed contempt. Veteran British journalist Fallon (The Brothers, 1989, etc.) quite admires Sir James Michael Goldsmith—and it shows in this detailed, if often deferential, biography of the Anglo-French tycoon. Fallon secured the cooperation of his combative, colorful subject, thereby gaining access to friends, foes, and members of Goldsmith's extended family. Tracing the billionaire's roots back to the 15th-century Frankfurt ghetto that also spawned the Rothschild clan, the author spins an illuminating yarn that gets down to business with a gossipy account of Goldsmith's privileged, scapegrace youth. Following stints at Eton and in the British army, Goldsmith joined his brother in a French-based pharmaceuticals venture and soon amassed a small fortune that, in less than three decades, he parlayed into vast riches. Eventually, Goldsmith shifted his base of operations from Europe to America—and with a controlling interest in the prospering Grand Union supermarket chain, plus proceeds from raids on Crown Zellerbach, Diamond International, Goodyear, and other targets, he had no cause to regret the move. A prescient operator, Goldsmith anticipated the 1987 crash, converting his holdings into cash or its equivalent. Back once again in the UK, he then launched an abortive assault on BAT Industries; in the wake of this unsuccessful campaign, the mellowing Sir James withdrew from the fray. He now roams among his pleasure domes in France, Mexico, and elsewhere while supporting environmental causes. No narrative history of this larger-than-life character widely known as ``Goldenballs'' would be complete without an account of his decidedly unconventional personal affairs. Fallon obliges with briefings on an impressive lineup of beautiful wives and mistresses who, all told, have borne Goldsmith eight children. The author also recounts the tycoon's frequent battles with England's media, virtually the only fronts on which Fallon does not give Sir James the benefit of almost every doubt. A comprehensive and informative, albeit soft-centered, account of a genuinely remarkable career. (Forty-five illustrations.)

Pub Date: March 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-27386-4

Page Count: 536

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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