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The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,598 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Billionaire oil trader Marc Rich for the first time talks at length about his private life (including his expensive divorce from wife Denise); his invention of the spot oil market which made his fortune and changed the world economy; his lucrative and unpublicized dealings with Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, Fidel Castro's Cuba, war-ravaged Angola, and apartheid South Africa; ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
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Tim O'Hearn
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A significant update to A. Craig. Copetas' book Metal Men which was written 25 years prior. Daniel Ammann--somehow--not only managed to sit down with the secretive Marc Rich (who, to my knowledge, never granted an on-record interview to anyone) but seemed to actually befriend Marc Rich. They went skiing together in St. Moritz. The result is the biography of Marc Rich that chisels his name into the pillar of eternity. Rich passed away five years after this book was published.

Rich was the founder
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Marc Rich is a rare specimen: an extreme risk-taker who took too much risk but didn't die broke.

Conventionally, the story of a big company is that the founder made a boatload of money, and even though his successor created more aggregate wealth, the successor was not so well-paid. In stylized terms, the founder makes 20% of the first $1 billion, and a really successor makes 1% of the next $9 billion.

Not so with Glencore, née Marc Rich + Co AG! Glencore's CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, has sported a net
Bruno Gremez
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An interesting biography of a unique and fascinating man, Marc Rich. He is remembered for controversies around some oil trades that he did with South Africa during the apartheid regime and with Iran after the 1979 revolution while these countries were under international sanctions, and as the man who benefitted from an 11th-hour pardon of President Clinton. At the same time, Mark Rich is a visionary man who saw, before anyone else, the opportunity to trade oil from major oil producing countries ...more
Kristian Reinertsen
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Writing wise, uncompelling. Tediously repetitive and, for my taste, too lacking in ways of concrete examples. None the less, this book gave me food for thought. If anything, it offered me a broader view on comodities trade and how world events affect traders - two topics I'm not intimately familliar with. I'd also not heard of Mark Rich before and, due to my age, completely missed out on the public controversy surrounding him.

I finished the read, left with conflicted emotions. My dislike for Am
Elaine Nelson
I'm still working on what I think about this. Oddly enough, it's become bound up in my head with my thoughts about Facebook. (In short, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.) I had a instant distrust of Rich, and I think the brief reference to Ayn Rand has something to do with it. Then "realpolitik", and one thinks of Kissinger, and I think there's a connection amongst people who have fled dictatorships, and one reaction being the development of an amoral outlook, at l ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Ethics". He laughed. Then he pointed at my Diet Coke. "Your Coke can is made of aluminium. The bauxite that is needed to make it probably comes from Guinea-Conakry. A terrible dictatorship, believe me," he said. "The oil that is used to heat this room probably comes from Saudi Arabia. These good friends of the USA hack the hands off thieves just like in the Middle Ages. Your cell phone? Without coltan there wouldn't be any cell phones. Let's not pretend. Coltan was used to finance the civil war ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating biography. Like we say in Haiti, Marc Rich was an onion: he was in every sauce! Cuba, Middle East, Africa, LATAM, Europe.... Highly recommended, but at times it feel like the author might be leaning too much on Marc Rich’s side. I need to follow up and read more from his detractors to hear their version.
Ingemar Fredriksson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amazing life story of a billionaire and his invention of the spot oil market.
Ian .
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about trading, global markets, capitalism, politics. Truely controversial guy with controversial history.
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's put it like this.
The story surrounding the "biggest devil of them all" is not at least boring. It can be argued that Mr. Rich (nomen est omen) is, in fact, the most interesting trade figure of the 20th century. Although the claimed start from the bottom (american dream fairy tale) is in fact widely exaggerated, a man can only admit that he was the best in his business. In the right time, on the right place with the right set of mind (somebody would say that you need the wrong set of mind
Alan Menachemson
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting. Pure capitalism. No coincidence that he was influenced by Ayn Rand. The book makes a good case that he was unfairly victimized, but personally I think that ethics are as important as acting within the law. And assisting evil regimes to avoid sanctions is not ethical
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
great book on a great subject.
Ron Wroblewski
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book that traces how oil is priced - not with the old contracts but with the market. Well done.
Ingvi Þór Georgsson
Good story

Great author and interesting take on Rich. Especially like the chapters about his trades but skipped most of the legal nonsense from the US
Zhou Fang
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's incredible the amount of influence Marc Rich has had on the global commodity markets, and yet I had never heard of him (a fact I'm embarrassed to admit). The author Daniel Ammann gives a positive account of Rich's life, and it's clear from the interviews that this book is thoroughly researched. The reader finds it easy to empathize with Rich, from being a poor Jewish boy, to becoming the creator of the global spot oil market, to being prosecuted and ultimately pardoned by the United States ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall, the book The King of Oil was a favorable book because of the interesting life of a businessman that trades oil, Marc Rich. The book is written from the information gathered in multiple interviews between Rich and the author. I felt the book could've been more thorough with the author doing research and adding that into the book. The author overall did a successful job on spending the correct amount of time on the different parts of Rich’s life. It’s challenging for an author to cover so ...more
Emma Hayne
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The King of Oil - Daniel Ammann
Ever wondered how commodity markets came to exist? Thanks to Marc Rich, the spot market for black gold (oil) was created and became one of the most lucrative ideas of the twentieth century. The story of Marc Rich is that of controversy, success, exile and somewhat motivational. Rich was able to find opportunity when people could only see despair, which some would consider his fatal flaw. He built relationships with Iran, South Africa, Cuba and Angola during period
Connor Swenson
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
The Book in 3 Sentences

1. The King of Oil is a biography of Marc Rich, a businessman known as one of the greatest commodities traders of the 20th century, and who became vilified by the US Government and the press for tax issues surrounding his business empire.
2. Marc is a self-made billionaire born in pre-WWII Belgium to a Jewish family who escaped just before the Nazis invaded. He started his career at Philip Brothers, then known as the leading commodities trading house in the world.
3. He inv
Feb 14, 2021 rated it liked it
The complex Marc Rich tale is fascinating. This book provided a new perspective and attempted to balance the politically inflammatory and biased accounts of Marc Rich. The question of morality, business ethics, shareholder primacy, and a myriad of other business questions are posed as one reads this book. As was stated several times, life is seldom what it seems. Things are often grey, when the media would rather paint things as black or white. I appreciate the author’s ability to humanize Rich, ...more
Santosh Rangapure
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just finished this magnificent story of King of Black gold that is Crude Oil. The way Marc Rich created an empire with an astonishing business skills is just unbelievable. The whole Americas intelligence was behind Marc Rich to get him back in USA and continue the legal proceedings for all the serious offence against him but this man on his own surprised whole America with his money power and political connections all over the world. His rise from a simple family to the Oil King is simply breath ...more
Sander Hofmann
Fascinating book on the tumultuous carreer of the infamous so called "rogue trader"March Rich.
i'm really intrigued by the commodity trading business and their respective traders and employees.
However i think that this book focuses too much on the legal case and the judicial process.
I rather learn more about the brilliance of Marc Rich, for example, his input during meetings, his day to day activies at the company, his dealing with colleagues and so forth.
Other than that i think it is a very i
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’d give this book a 4.5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the coming out of hardship to riches story.

Aside from it being a biography, The King of Oil provided mini history lessons and gave a glimpse of the different types of political systems that existed (or still exists depending on the example we’re using) and how they operated. From Iran to Nigeria to Cuba - reading about personal experiences with these countries sure is exciting.

On the other hand, what I didn’t like about the book is the auth
Trung Nguyen Dang
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is written by a business editor through interviews with Marc Rich (who has founded what was later known as Glencore) and people close to him or his matters. I felt there was too little on Marc Rich himself (how he is like as a person, how he conducts his businesses ...) and too much on his case with the US (probably accounts for 40% of the book). Nevertheless, it's still a great piece of work on a man who has been so quiet and shy from publicity. We finally get to hear his side of the s ...more
Ernestasia Siahaan
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I didn’t know who Marc Rich was when I grabbed this book for myself. I just thought there may be interesting things to learn from a so-called “King of Oil”.

The book left a strong impression on me. While narrating Marc Rich’s success and downfall, it gave a glimpse of world politics, the question of morality, hypocrisy in business and government institutions,
sensationalist journalism and manipulation of public opinion.

The writing was to the point and engaging, so much so I finished the boo
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it

Well researched, a lot of effort went into documenting Rich's personal habits and relationships. Author spends too much time reiterating the subject's refugee background and interjecting vague musings about philosophy and morality, not enough detail on the trade technicalities (competitors? what kind of oil? what did the supply chain actually look like?) The book is structured in that pseudo-discursive longform style, but made dissonant by tacky transitions like: "August of 1983 was one of th
Kash Burchett
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Well researched although written in a slightly self aggrandising style. The author spends too long describing how this is the first time Rich has opened up about certain things and not enough on the intricacies of the contracts and development of the spot market. If you liked the Prize, barbarians at the gate, smartest guys in the room etc then you could do worse than this but be warned - it’s not as good as them. Still good for a holiday read - real page turner.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oil "Black Gold"

This is an interesting and easy read on the acclaimed king of oil. From humble beginnings , secret life (lives) to eventual presidential pardon - indeed intriguing. The commodity of oil trade, the energy of economies, some nations have economically developed and benefitted from it whilst others have become poorer because of it. A natural resource - treat it with respect for all to benefit, not just some.
Anthony P Badali
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging and easy to read biography.

This text provides an interesting views on politics and the nature of commodities trading businesses.

It's not a book about market structure or strategy but instead focuses on the life of Marc Rich as a businessman who established one of the largest trading companies in the world.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book on the colourful life of commodity trader Marc Rich and his valuable insights on founding the largest commodity trading house in the 20th Century Marc Rich and Co.

The book portrays an epic thriller of cat and mouse of Marc Rich personal life coupled with a vast experience of knowledge that he shares on the commodity markets as well as the trading world
Nader Gol
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
what an awesome read! I decided to give this a book a read before starting to work for glencore to get a sense for the culture of the company and where it is coming from. After finishing it, particularly after reading the last four pages, I was left with a new philosophy in life and what's wrong/right in business from a king's perspective.

life is not always what it seems.

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