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The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,972 ratings  ·  53 reviews
During the 1980s, Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert was the Billionaire Junk Bond King. He invented such things as "the highly confident letter" (I'm highly confident that I can raise the money you need to buy company X) and "the blind pool" (Here's a billion dollars: let us help you buy a company), and he financed the biggest corporate raiders--men like Carl Icahn ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 1989 by Penguin Books (first published 1988)
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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,972 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Frank Stein
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it

Of all the financial industry tell-alls of the 1980s, this has to be the most detailed and comprehensive. While writers like Bryan Burroughs, in books like "Barbarians at the Gate," focused on personalities and relationships, Connie Bruck peaked inside the intricate system of junk bond financing that Michael Miliken pioneered at Drexel Burnham Lambert, and explained how such subtle innovations as refinancing bonds and private placements led him to become the most richly rewarded man in the world
Will Thompson
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thorough yet lengthy; engrossing

Connie Bruck forged an in-depth exploration of the rise of Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham. His signature product, junk bonds, is vividly dissected for their effects on the marketplace, on individuals buying and selling them, and on the companies whose interests they presumably serve. Each major bond issue by Milken's firm is a case study unto itself. The book is lengthy (it took me months to finish, picking it up several times only to realize I did not have the
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not much like Michael Lewis. The story is building slowly and rather dull. Had not we talking about an important part of theme that changed financial ecosystem(must be read as "wealth accumulation) it might not be problem, but we had... Worth to read for those wondering about how the sons of lower class families(I'm sorry there was no woman) ravaged higher class dominated financial sytem. Ah wasn't the old system that always make money far to easy for them...
"I'm highly confident that reader of
Kappner C. Boles
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but incomplete story

Good depiction of Milken’s rise, but I would have appreciated an appendix with a further update. What specifically was he convicted of and what was the punishment? How did this compare with other similar cases? What has he done since getting out? The writer would like us to believe that his transgressions dramatically overshadow his contributions, but I am not entirely convinced.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-read
I enjoyed 'Barbarians at the Gate' and wanted to read something like it. Unfortunately, this book doesn't compare.

It is a collection of stories and the chapters largely have to do with certain people that benefitted from Michael Milken's efforts. It doesn't have a strong story arc and seems to leave us in suspense at the end.

Okay book but there are better ones.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, a_gift
Hey, remember in the mid-2000s when the real estate market was hot and a few people said “These are not great investments, this will end badly” but nobody listened? It happened in the 1980s too. And no one truly got what they deserved.
Daniel Vargas Sotomayor
Great book

Great financial history book. All about the genesis of the global HY market. Well researched and written despite luck of collaboration from the main character.
Jason Orthman
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining read about the excesses and dynamism of the 1980s. Great history lesson on the development of junk bonds and the central figure, Michael Milken, behind their acceptance.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A bust in the model?
Janis Orlovs
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Worth reading for young finance warriors
Jacob Wren
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Connie Bruck writes:

In their 1985 annual report, the President's Council of Economic Advisers had weighed in with its conclusions, surprising only in their ambitiousness. They purported to settle once and for all the decades-long debate over whether takeovers are beneficial or harmful. This august council concluded that mergers and acquisitions "improve efficiency, transfer scarce resources to higher value users, and stimulate effective corporate management." The conclusion was remarkably defini
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book as part of an ongoing effort to read about all of the big financial crime prosecutions (I think I might like to be a federal prosecutor, hence the interest). The book tells the story of Michael Milken's rise to prominence at Drexel Burnham, his creation of the junk bond market, and the beginning of his fall from grace. I found the book a really thorough, and comprehensible, guide to this market and to what happened, which was great, and the research is comprehensive (Bruck also ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 stars.

Bruck provides lots of highly detailed reporting about The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham, but largely ignores her book's advertised claim to perspectivize the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders.

This book is too long (by at least a quarter), often repetitive, and insufficiently interested in describing the larger macro-economic backdrop that gave rise to junk bond raiding.

Having read several of Bruck's long profiles of business persons, my general conclusion is that she spends too much tim
Jon Morgan
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
As the tale of one person's empire building, innovating whole new realms while also transgressing ethical and legal norms, this text has a great deal in common with Robert Caro's The Power Broker. This book is a probing look at the mechanics of Michael Milken's seizure of power in corporate finance. That said, there are two faults I have with this: first, that the action described takes place in a little over a decade; the events seem to pile on top of each other, giving little sense of chronolo ...more
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Extremely well-written. Presents the junk bond financing market's birth and its aftermath. In the 1970s and 80s, small & medium companies were hard-pressed to find financing for expansion. Banks were inclined to lend only to blue chip companies.

The junk bond financing was responsible for laying bare several things:
(1) the super cozy relationships between bank, broker & lawyer
(2) the insulated world of the blue chip companies - undervalued and under-utilized

At its best it would have be
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great book, though the author has an odd way of referring to herself as "this reporter" and may editorialize when she might be better to cite. The other shortcoming of this book is that it doesn't go long enough. It goes up to Milken's indictment, but not through his conviction, and it doesn't discuss the fall of RJR Nabisco, the junk bond market crash of 1989, the role of junk bonds in the S&L crisis, the bankruptcy of Drexel, or how and why the junk bond market survived. It would also be i ...more
Nov 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Predators' Ball tells that story of corporate raiders, who were people that basically bought up companies that were not doing to well, revamped them and then sold them for profit. This tells the story of one of those raiders that got blindsided by lawsuits from the SEC for numerous financial crimes and subsequently saw their empire crumble.
I liked this book because it showed what can happen when people get wrapped in the guts and glory that is Wall Street. Most people would like think that
Outstanding book that takes complicated material and a sensationalized era and makes it all contextualized, accessible, and clear. I hadn't realized how big a role fixed-incomes played in all that has gone wrong over the past thirty years, but Bruck makes it clear -- no less an analyst and commentator than Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker) stated as much to us when he conference-called with our Viewpoints class in February 2010. Bruck is the one who taught me how and why this is so.

She is equally goo
John Devlin
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
(2.8) a detailed analysis of the growth of high yield bonds in the 80's. Bruck examines the wisdom that these bonds created the money necessary for many midlist companies to expand, creating better economics across the spectrum of workers, managers and shareholders. Additionally, Bruck examines the notion that Junk Bonds were a way to free capital from the larger companies that had become insulated from the market and filled w/a new aristocracy of overly conservative managers wedded to privilege ...more
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
The author did an immense amount of work and packed it into a piece that reads fairly well for a historical account. This is one of the more important stories to understand in light of today's issues. The rise of the Junk Bond raiders isn't just the rise of the Junk Bond era, it is the rise of how this type of debt made it to market and took off. It is a story that explains what- despite all of the news in the press against sub-prime - the purpose of this debt is (outside of lining the pockets o ...more
Bryan Taylor
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The essential book on Michael Milkin, the junk bond king. The book made me sympathetic toward him, seeing that he did contribute a lot to financial markets, innovated and provide a service for which he was amply rewarded. Whether he was chosen to be prosecuted because he was outside the Wall Street in crowd, whether he desreved what he got is a matter of debate, but there have been others who have done worse, such as a certain politican from New Jersey, who have slid through. Maybe Michael Milki ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business-history
The book is a decent account of Michael Milken, who was the key figure in the junk bond market in the 1980s. The book is meticulously researched and goes into the events in great detail. What sometimes lets the book down is that the narrative lacks the story-telling excitement that are key part of the truly great books in this genre (e.g. Lewis, Lowenstein). Also the order of events can be a little bit haphazard at times and sometimes shuffles back and forth in time, leaving the reader to flick ...more
Sharon Beers
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
The rise and fall of Michael Milkin and DBL - pertinent again today. Junk bonds that for the most part weren't junk, until political pressure was exerted by the NYC DA. Milken was later brought down by Rudy Guiliani as part of his political plan to become mayor of NYC. Milkin did some illegal things, but no more than was standard operating practice at the time at many of the large firms, almost all of whom escaped Guiliani's vengeance.
Nov 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
I was looking for a book that would give me a broad perspective on the junk bond controversies of the 1980s, and this book left me disappointed. It was too detailed and rambling for my purposes, and it lacked the vivid characterizations and drama of Barbarians at the Gate. The author relied heavily on quotes from Drexel's critics and Milkin's earlier public testimony and depositions to describe his activities.
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book about ten years ago, and I enjoyed it a fair bit at the time. Recently I have been mostly struck how it was a fairly good analogue to the recent financial crisis - low-rated bonds being re-securitised and sold as highly rated products. This seems to have been forgotten by the mainstream media, sadly, who's rigour when reporting on financial matters is... about as good as it is on computing matters :-/. Definitely a good read.
May 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
I can see why this is a classic business book and certainly interesting to read when considering the whole debt crisis we went through just a couple years ago and are still feeling the effects from. This is another example of how little we learn from our own history and how predictable these cycles of loose money leading to questionable behavior leading to tightening of the money which takes us back to the beginning are. The characters change but the pattern remains the same.
Bob Glass
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
My disappointment and anger would be higher if I was writing a review when the book was written in 1988. Ironically this books seems rather out dated. What's the big deal? The people on Wall Street take advantage of the middle and lower class and get filthy rich in the process. And that's unfortunate for me because I'm in the middle class.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
"A fascinating portrait of how the ambitious Michael Milken took a second-tier brokerage and transformed it into a short-lived powerhouse by pushing high-yield junk bonds and using them to fuel the leverage buyout mania of the 1980s. Amazing how easily investors fell for his schemes that played on their greed. As usual, it all collapses in the end, but not before much damage was done."
Big D
Jun 15, 2008 rated it liked it
So far the book has been a great insight into the creation of the junk bond market of the early 80's, led by Michael Milken of Drexel Burnham. It requires a basic knowledge of finance and bond markets, otherwise the reader will get lost in the names and deal sizes. A little dense at times, but a great read nonetheless.
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
it's a short book but not an easy read however it is worth the 5 stars not because it is impossible to put down but because it is so informative and so comprehensive. if you want to leearn about milken and boesky, this is the book.
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“Explaining their allure, Milken said, “The opportunity to be true to yourself in high-yield bonds is great. It is not like buying a stock. With a stock, its value is generally dependent upon investors’ collective perceptions of the future. No matter how much research you have done regarding a particular stock, you don’t have a contract as to what the future price will be. But with a high-yield bond there is a date certain in the future when it matures, and if you hold it to maturity and your analysis is correct, you will be correct in your calculation of your yield—and you do have a contract as to future price. One is certain if you’re right. The other is not.” 0 likes
“Milken told his boss, Edwin Kantor, who was in charge of all fixed-income trading, that he wanted to create an autonomous unit, with its own sales force, its own traders and its own research people: the high-yield- and convertible-bond department. Selling these low-rated bonds, he explained, was more like selling stocks than it was like selling high-grade bonds. If a bond was rated triple A by a rating agency, institutions bought them based on that rating—not on the salesman’s pitch about the company. But to convince an investor to buy a bond with a C rating you had to tell the company’s story. You had to know the company’s management, its product, its balance sheet, its earnings trend and cash flow—just as you would in trying to sell the stock of a little-known company.” 0 likes
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