Tedlow (Business Administration/Harvard; Giants of Enterprise, not reviewed) profiles Intel guru Andy Grove.
Grove’s life story is, indeed, the American dream: He immigrated to the US in the 1950s, a penniless refugee, and landed a job at Intel, where he eventually served as CEO, overseeing a terrific increase in sales, profits and market capitalization. His Silicon Valley leadership earned him, among other plaudits, the spot as Time’s Man of the Year in 1997. Now a quasi-retired “advisor” to Intel, Grove oversees his family’s philanthropic foundation. Here, Tedlow addresses some of his subject’s more controversial opinions—such as his belief that stock options should not be expensed, because without the incentive provided by stock options, American technological ingenuity would suffer. The author is willing to criticize Grove; he suggests that Intel didn’t benefit from Grove’s intransigence about expensing stock options, and that Grove’s judgment may have been clouded. Even so, Tedlow is clearly an admirer, likening Grove to Benjamin Franklin (both liked to write and refused to let age slow them down), Andrew Carnegie (both immigrants’ lives are rags-to-riches stories) and Odysseus (who, like Grove, was a born leader who refused to accept defeat). But for all these high-flying comparisons, Tedlow’s evaluation of Grove is pedestrian—the central idea seems to be that the key to Grove’s leadership is his willingness to adapt and change. Tedlow explains the technologies like the Pentium processor in terms a layman can follow. But he too frequently falls into cliché: “The future was limitless,” etc. Despite the large body of writing about Grove—including his own memoir, Swimming Across (2001)—Tedlow contends, rightly, that an aura of mystery surrounds the man. What makes him tick? How does he make his business decisions? This biography, based on unfettered access to the subject and those close to him, is engaging and informative, but never fully dispels the mystery.
An ultimately unsurprising contribution to business literature.