OIL AND HONOR: The Texaco-Pennzoil Wars by Thomas Jr. Petzinger
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OIL AND HONOR: The Texaco-Pennzoil Wars

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Written before Texaco's filing for bankruptcy, this is a stunningly detailed reconstruction of the highest-stakes competition in corporate history--the bitter $11-billion battle for Getty Oil. As deputy manager of The Wall Street Journal bureau in Houston, Petzinger has covered the story from the start. He makes the most of his firsthand knowledge, providing a definitive account of the brawl that pitted Pennzoil against Texaco for nearly five years. Opening with a stage-setting rundown on the principal players, including Gordon Getty (enigmatic son of J. Paul), Hugh Liedtke (Pennzoil's vindictive CEO), and John McKinely (a chemical engineer who reached the top at Texaco), Petzinger soon gets up to speed with an absorbing, fast-paced narrative in which Gordon, sole fiduciary of a family trust that owned 40% of Getty, began shopping the company in 1982. Liedtke thought he had a deal for the trust's control position at the start of 1983. At the eleventh hour, however, Texaco entered a higher bid. Embittered at losing domestic crude reserves that would have made Pennzoil an oil-industry major, Liedtke sued. Toward year-end 1985, after a decidedly curious jury trial, he won a home-town decision worth over $10.5 billion in damages against Texaco. Much of what has happened in the Pennzoil/Texaco set-to is well known. Petzinger's considerable contribution is to personify the many attorneys, financiers, and lower-echelon executives who have manned the trenches during the lengthy struggle. He does not shy from interpretive commentary, at many points encouraging readers to draw cautionary conclusions. To illustrate, he shows precisely why Pennzoil's case for monetary damages is ""outrageous,"" and Liedtke's early career as a less than principled raider gets a thorough airing. Nor does Petzinger fail to document the elastic ethics of Wall Street's M&A (merger and acquisition) pros. Nuanced financial journalism at its very best.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam