Barbarians at the Gate: Bryan Burroughs & John Helyar -2005

Barbarians at the Gate was written by two esteemed Wall street financial journalists Bryan Burrough and John Heylar. The book recounts the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by KKR & co. in 1989. This example is greatly representative of the business culture which prevailed in the late 1980s.

The books presents the ugly side of business during the end of the 1980s and the current state in which business was done. From boardrooms to secret meetings and vicious deals.

“The minute you establish an organization, it starts to decay.”

Barbarians at the Gate chronicles how F. Ross Johnson rose to CEO of RJR Nabisco (a joint food and tobacco corporation) by playing political games and scheming. He subsequently went on the search for a private equity firm to buy out RJR Nabisco in an effort to achieve a profit for himself and shareholders. This sparked a bidding war followed by a stream of Wall Street Drama peaking at the final decision of who would win the leveraged buyout.

Barbarians at the Gate is a historical account of a great corporate event and includes multiple case studies to understand the operations of major corporations during the Reagan era. The rich history provides insight into the greed and egos which run the financial world. It is an absolute page-turner highly recommended for all interested in the History of Wall Street and how it was run back in the day where it was easier to keep secrets.

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