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In 1983, Lew Glucksman, then co-CEO of the heralded investment bank Lehman Brothers, demanded the resignation of chairman Pete Peterson, with whom he had long argued over how to manage the company. Shockingly, Peterson, who had taken charge a decade earlier and led Lehman from near collapse to record profits, agreed to step down.
In this meticulously researched volume, Ken Auletta details the turmoil, infighting, and power struggles that brought about Peterson's departure and the eventual sale of one of Wall Street's oldest and most prestigious firms. Set against the backdrop of the 1980s stock exchange, where hotshot young traders made and lost millions in a single afternoon, the story of Lehman's fall is a suspenseful battle of wills between bankers, traders, and executives motivated by greed, envy, and ego. Auletta, who conducted hundreds of hours of interviews and was granted access to private company records, has crafted a thorough, enduring, and engaging account of pivotal events that continued to influence this storied financial institution until its ultimate demise in 2008.
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By Philo on 11-21-15
An important fork in the road for Lehman
The biggest target audience, I think, would be those with an interest in history of business and particularly banking. Also it is a fine case study and cautionary tale in governance. On a wider level, I found it a classic, absorbing story of the collision within towers of economic power of drastically different but very ambitious individuals. At moments it descends into a sort of rugby scrum between antagonists in suits (some more svelte than others). The Lehman of the 1970s-1980s crackles with historical shifts and the impending collisions of intriguing business and political personalities on the make, no two of whom seem to have remembered any shared conversation in a remotely matching way. The self-serving stories swirl as much as do the different dynamics and shifting moves of the characters. Lew Glucksman in particular seemed born to wrestle, to enter any room and come out with some loyal team members, and others glaring with knives flashing. And the author did a great job of floating from scene to scene with insights, business and personal, large and small. Here much homework was paired with well-crafted writing. The narrator is a good fit for this work, much as he was for the (in some ways similar and splendid) audio of The Taking of Getty Oil. Steven Cooper's sober, well-intoned but ever-so-faintly querulous performance perfectly conveys the nervousness and discomfort of moments in which players very much preoccupied with their expected riches, their ambitions and jealously guarded self-image, are unavoidably propelled into a sort of crucible, flaws and all, where their fates will be decided. The thin veneer of big-town civility over it all only makes it more disturbed and, for me, gripping. History indeed pivots on some pretty unusual and imperfect personalities in messy situations. And in the wings appears the well-known Dick Fuld.
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