The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals
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The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  324 ratings  ·  52 reviews
At the height of the roaring OCO20s, Swedish (r)migr(r) Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures...more
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Published April 13th 2009 by Da Capo Press (first published February 19th 2009)
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Johnsergeant
Narrated by: L. J. Ganser

Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins

Publisher's Summary

At the height of the roaring 20s, Swedish émigré Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression.

Yet after Kreuger's suicide in 1932, the true nature of his empire emerged. Driven by success to adopt ever-more perilous practices, Kreuger had turned to shell companies in tax havens, fudged...more
B. Factor
A long, repetitive and frequently tedious biography of Swedish financier Ivar Kreuger aka The Match King in the first third of the 20th century. Ivar invented off-balance sheet financing, vote-light B shares, implicit prepayment penalties, complex derivatives issued by offshore subsidiaries, and the loan-for-monopoly concept. He was the first to finance large loans to foreign governments by selling securities to the American public. Ultimately many of his business dealings were found to be fraud...more
Kathleen
This biography offers a very reasonable account of Ivar Kreuger's financial deals in the nineteen-twenties and early thirties up to--and including the details of--his death. However, I feel it devalues somewhat, through lack of reference to, his industrial genius. The reason that he needed to make these semi-moral investment transactions was because Kreuger was so good at match making that he practically put himself out of business. He needed to sell matches in a monopoly situation because he de...more
Jill Hutchinson
I love to find obscure little biographies and here is one of them. The public has basically forgotten Ivar Kreuger, "The Match King", but during the 1920-1930s, he was the one of the most well known financiers in the world, second only the the powerful House of Morgan. And it all started with something called Swedish Match (which incidentally is still extant). It seems odd that one could make a fortune as a match manufacturer but in those days, the match was much more important than it is today....more
Dkolacinski
I really don't relate to economics, but this book is fascinating. Financial genius, financial con artist. The line between the two is slim, and probably relates to how the money flows -- or doesn't. Everything that happened in the '80's, everything that happened in 2008, it was all done before by Ivar Keueger, who did it all with matches. What is common today in finance was created by him. Eventually houses of card fall, and Krueger's went up in the smoke of his matches. A really good read.
getAbstract
Gripping biography of a fascinating business genius and con man

Readers who love fascinating stories with unforgettable characters will thank professor and market expert Frank Partnoy for his book on 1920s business icon Ivar Kreuger. This remarkable figure was a global financier, Greta Garbo’s close companion, and an adviser to prime ministers, kings and a U.S. president. Though he was one of the world’s greatest con men, he has somehow slipped, all but forgotten, from popular history. Partnoy r...more
getAbstract
Gripping biography of a fascinating business genius and con man

Readers who love fascinating stories with unforgettable characters will thank professor and market expert Frank Partnoy for his book on 1920s business icon Ivar Kreuger. This remarkable figure was a global financier, Greta Garbo’s close companion, and an adviser to prime ministers, kings and a U.S. president. Though he was one of the world’s greatest con men, he has somehow slipped, all but forgotten, from popular history. Partnoy r...more
Alicia
I need to do these reviews as I'm reading. Because by the time I get to the end, I forget what struck me at the beginning. Anyway, this book touts itself as the story of Ivar Kreuger, the first Bernie Madoff of his time.

I can see how people would think that. Both men made crazy promises when it came to investments and returns. Both men got fabulously rich during a time of great prosperity in the United States. And both were terrific terrific liars to anyone who would listen.

However, there are d...more
Ru
Compelling real-life financial con that has largely been forgotten over time. "The lesson of Ivar Kreuger is not that his businesses were illegal. It is that there were alegal." That one sentence sums up this historical accounting quite nicely. Kreuger legitimately founded and ran a matchstick company about a hundred years ago, that rose to great prominence in the world. That alone seems remarkable and almost inconceivable by modern standards, that the matchstick was so valuable an item than an...more
Bap
Before Enron and the subprime financial collapse, there was Ivar Kreuger, a financial kingpin from Sweden who dominated the 1920's and even survived the initial crash in 1929 by audacity and bluff but then later in 1932 when his string ran out he was found dead, an apparent suicide with his financial empire collapsing.

A self made man, he took advantage of the lax regulatory oversight and flimsy accounting standards to juggle the books and by means of deception and guile, keep his far flung finan...more
Patrick
Picked this off the new non-fiction kiosk at the library. Very interesting so far. One of the first Bernie Madoff speculator types, but a much more talented one who actually also made profitable businesses and invented many financial transaction types until his snowball of greed caught up with him.

OK, finished it. Very interesting story. Kreuger is more substantial than my initial picture of him. This guy was part Enron--innovative, multi-national company that really did return great profits and...more
Erwin
Very interesting story of Swedish entrepreneur, Ivar Kreuger.

Kreuger's family owned several match factories in the Kalmar, Sweden area. At this time, Sweden's "Safety Matches" used red phosphorus instead of the more common, toxic, yellow phosphorus. Also, the matches could only be ignited by striking them on the surface of the match box. At the time, safety matches were Sweden's biggest export.

Kreuger's family hired private tutors, and he graduated at 16 - two years ahead of schedule. He then we...more
TC
A meticulously researched and foot-noted treatment of a now-forgotten man who one could argue was one of the most important financiers and personalities of the early 20th century. Ivar Kreuger is now largely unknown, but once was a household name who became Europe's most important lender after WWI, invented numerous financial instruments still in use today--and committed enough fraud and financial sleight-of-hand to be arguably singly responsible for bringing forth the political will to enact th...more
David
Talking Book. Very good and evidence that people do not change, greed for money, status and an easy way of getting them remains the same. Thank heavens the sort of business dealings revealed in this biography could not happen again after the 1920s and 30s. Except they have numerous times and continue to do so. One of the worlds biggest ponzie schemes. I wonder if this will be made into a movie such as happened with Enron. But I guess it occurred to far in the past and encourages "real" due dilig...more
Joe Soria
Ever since reading John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Great Crash of 1929," my interest has been piqued on the Great Depression and the the early great financiers, the roots of Wall Street.

If nothing else, "Match King" tells the tale of Ivan Krueger, a true trailblazer of swindling innovation. This biography tells the tale of the Roaring 20's and how Krueger made and lost a fortune while taking down titans of banking, and practically the whole financial system of Sweden with him.

Then there is the ma...more
Ariel
I enjoyed this look at one of those forgotten figures of history. Krueger built a huge empire that finally collapsed in on itself in the early 1930s. The authors writing keeps the large lists of actors, companies and transaction clear and easy to follow, though I felt like there were huge parts of the story that never were clearly fleshed out. If Krueger was a mystery in his time, he in many ways remains one today.

If Krueger is remembered at all today he is remembered as a scam artist, but this...more
Brooks
Very interesting piece of history. Here is a industrialist as large as J P Morgan and as infamous as Ponzoi and I had never heard of him. I thought the book did not provide enough insite into the base business. I was fascinated by the size and breadth of the businesses, but never got any insights into the acquisition strategy or business operations. The book focus (and I think this is a flaw) on the relationship between Ivar and his USA auditor from Ernst and Ernst. It was like the book was writ...more
Oyster
The charming Swiss conman has become somewhat of an archetype. Meet the original, whose incredible wealth was born out of both legitimate business savvy and a fraudulent deals. Ivan Kreuger was on top of the world for a good long run until his matchstick monopoly went up in smoke.
Vivian
While the language seems to have been dumbed down for a general audience, I enjoyed this account of a financial genius of the 1920s/early 1930s who was the epitome of the era of exuberance leading to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. No matter what you might think of his tactics, and they were plenty shady, Ivar Kreuger manipulated people and finances to a degree that was dizzying. And of course, the parallels between his strategies, and those of the bankers and investors of the lastest financial...more
James
Great "real novel" account of the rise and fall of one of the greatest con men in history, recommended to those who are interested in reading about a big piece of financial history
Melissa
Perhaps a case of a historian cashing in on current events to tell a little-known story about something that should be better known, but heck, I love those kind of books!
Kreuger created a house of cards, built with matches, in the 1920s. He helped discover Greta Garbo. The crash of 1929 didn't immediately affect him, but when it did, it was an international, epic crash. Full of little, fun trivia (I may have read bits and pieces aloud to my folks while we were on vacation) and enough of the big...more
Jessica
In the midst of financial turmoil it's often difficult to see a situation clearly, and Partnoy does an excellent job of showing two key points - one, that this always happens, and two, that sufficient distance and a more reasoned analysis can often produce a very different picture of events. His even-handed approach works very well here, and he lets his reader draw the parallels to modern crises rather than swanning about in a desperately Captain Obvious way. A fascinating slice of forgotten his...more
Brendan
Interesting story but at least a third of the book is pointless side information which is either there to pad the book or to indulge the author belief he know everything that was going on in the 1920s. His extra bits of information are just a distraction. He could be talking about a business transaction in Sweden and some how he would feel it's important to start listing off Hollywood actors from the 1920s with the only connection being from six degrees of separation to Ivar.
Tyson Strauser
Ivar Kreuger was a true financial innovator, using participating preferreds, non-voting B shares, and many interlinking companies to finance his empire. His genius was only slightly less impressive than the fraud he perpetrated in his quest for international match monopolies. This was a great book for those interested in learning how to spot a scheme and for those that want a historical perspective on how to see through an impressive veneer to the character beneath.
Tim
Entertaining story about the first large international financial scandal in the 1920's and 1930's. Just when you think everything is different, you realize it has all happened before.
I love how Portnoy portrayed this very complex this story and how his biggest deal with the pre-war government of Germany actualy worked! Krueger's mysterious suicide in Paris just added to the story.
Good story, well written!
Erin
Interesting read, especially because it gave the full picture - things are not always black and white and we need to remember that history doesn't always judge people fairly. Really good read. It's amazing that he was such an important person and yet I never heard of him until reading this book - he never came up in business school or as a person who has framed our financial system as it stands today.
Matt
Bit verbose. Dated Greta Garbo. Logical driver of the 1933 Securities Act.
Todd Wright
The subject matter of this book was fascinating, however I was not impressed with the writing. Ivar Kreuger is the financial genius that most people have never heard of. I wish Kurt Eichenwald had written this book, Frank Partnoy is a capable writer however it seems to me that he often draws the most outrageous conclusion possible. Not too much financial jargon, overall a good read.
Aharon
Okay, Partnoy. I guess it added some narrative color the first time you mentioned that Kreuger would ask his neighbor to play the piano for him when he felt the pressure of business getting to be too much. The second time you mentioned it? Okay, sure, why not, it's a long book. But what about the third through fiftieth times? Why do biographers/business writers do this so much?
Elaine Nelson
Fascinating, a great follow-up to Lords of Finance. The intro & jacket mentioned Madoff several times, I assume because that's what's in the news, but the story reminds me much more of Enron. There were real products & businesses in there, but everything went wrong because people -- in this case Kreuger -- wanted to get fancy. Engaging telling of a amazing story.
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