Andy's Reviews > Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Dec 26, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: economics-and-finance, nonfiction
Read in November, 2010

A very exciting, fast-paced, thriller of a business book. The authors Bryan Burrough and John Helyar recount the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in late 1988. They lay some historical groundwork for the company, establish how its colorful CEO Ross Johnson rose to its head, and then lead the reader through Johnson's initial LBO bid and the frenetic twists and turns that followed as other firms and individuals scrambled to make competing bids, finance loans, or one way or another get a piece of the action.

The authors do a good job recounting events without getting caught up in technical details that would lose readers outside of the industry. The book appears to have been based on fairly exhaustive interviews that are not commonly given by financial market insiders, and so the nuances and perspectives it is able to present make for really great and thought-provoking reading. Sometimes the book enters into "this happened, then this happened" mode, probably caused by the authors trying to fit as many events as possible into a reasonably-sized volume and also by the sheer pace at which events unfolded. However this fault never looms very large because the story itself is so exciting and engagingly written.

If you read the 20th anniversary edition of this book, I recommend the afterword. It often takes a long time after a trade or a deal is done to determine whether it was a good or bad idea. Burrough and Helyar are able to catch up with some of the major players years later and take a very long-dated look back at the drama, observing what worked and what didn't, retracing the lives of RJR, KKR, and the banks after 1988, a future that people tried so intensely to predict and price for a few wild months.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Barbarians at the Gate.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.