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The Deals Are the Highlight, Everything In-between is a Trudge

A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A - John Close

Beginning in 1981, the business of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) started to change the American and later the world economy.  In his book A Giant-Cow Tipping by Savages, John Weir Close attempts to tell the history and the larger-than-life personalities that dominated the M&A industry.  However, the mishmash of short biographies and short stories documenting major deals is an informative, but meandering read.

 

The title of this book comes from Ted Turner describing his feelings about AOL-Time Warner merger; through you wouldn’t know it until nearly the end of the book and until then you wondered why Close or his publisher decided on the title.  Then there were the vignettes of Robert Campeau and Ilan Reich that were prominently displayed within the book, but either interrupted the flow of the text or where just there and only later showed to be an illustration of what was happening in the overall industry.  And then there are the sentences that have to be read more than once to understand what Close to talking about or approximate what he means.

 

The descriptions of the various deals throughout the 1980s and earlier 90s, the period Close focuses on the most, and the history leading up to and sometimes after are the best part of this book.  Having previously read Barbarians at the Gate I was familiar with the most famous M&A deal of all-time and with all the key players.  Close gives the reader a look at all the other major deals before and after RJR Nabisco, but also the relatively minor in financial terms but had a major impact in the Delaware courts and thus had affected larger deals.

 

John Weir Close was ambitious in attempting to give the modern history of M&A in A Giant-Cow Tipping by Savages, but the final product is unfortunately not equal to that ambition.  The highlight of Close writing is when he describes the events surrounding a major deal.  However connecting between these major deals is at times an intellectual trudge in figuring out how he’s tying these to one another.

 

I received a review copy of this book from LibraryThing.