ONCE UPON A TIME IN COMPUTERLAND: The Amazing, Billion-Dollar Tale of Bill Millard by Jonathan Littman
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ONCE UPON A TIME IN COMPUTERLAND: The Amazing, Billion-Dollar Tale of Bill Millard

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A deft and devastating portrait of William Millard, founder et ComputerLand--the ranking retailer of Electronic Data Processing equipment. Even casual readers of the financial and trade press realize that Millard (now 55) isa decidedly odd duck. In a painstakingly documented account that rings true, Littman (who has covered Millard's checkered career for PC Week) depicts his subject as something more--and less--than an immensely successful eccentric. He also makes clear that ComputerLand's transnational empire with its 800-odd outlets was built in spite of not because of, Millard. During the mid-1970's, college-dropout Millard ventured into the manufacture of personal computers--an enterprise that soon went bankrupt. In the meantime, at the behest of financial backers and industry specialists, he began franchising dealerships. Once ComputerLand began to thrive, though, he welched on a convertible note and stock agreements entitling the holders to minority interests in his business. After a series of legal setbacks, Millard surfaced last year on Saipan--then a tax haven. Settlements are still in the works, and the company (now being mn by professional managers) has yet to go public. In the main, Littman lets Millard's aberrant actions speak for themselves. As a disciple of Werner Ethard, for example, Millard decreed--at no small cost in morale--that est principles were to be cornerstones of corporate policy. When the author comments, he does so in wickedly deadpan fashion: ""What the franchisees couldn't understand was that Millard was only trying to be fair. . .That is why he had to illicitly tape their conversations, to insure that the hand of justice was uniform and perfect. Anything else would be a lie."" Altogether splendid reportage on a larger-than-life, probably paranoid antihero hurtling toward an overdue comeuppance. The engrossing text includes eight pages of black-and-white photos (not seen).

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1987
Publisher: HP Books