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Tearing Down the Walls


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Table of Contents


Cast of Characters


1. Crashing the Gates

2. Corned Beef With Lettuce

3. Into the WASP Nest

4. Exile on Park Avenue

5. Rip Van Winkle Inc.

6. Backwater Mogul

7. Branching Out

8. Fast Jets, Golden Parachutes

9. A Splendid Balance

10. Homecoming

11. The Red Umbrella

12. Choices

13. The Mother of All Deals

14. The Hydra-Headed Monster

15. Stalemate

16. Showdown

17. Seeds of Destruction

18. Blindsided

19. Taking Command

A Note on Sources




A symbol of crony capitalism thanks to his friendly phone call to the 92nd Street Y pre-school on behalf of analyst Jack Grubman, Sanford Weill helped lay the groundwork for today's vertically integrated (and scandal-ridden) financial industry. Starting with a small brokerage, Weill built several business empires that culminated in the $83 billion 1998 merger that put him atop the global financial services leviathan Citigroup, an unprecedented agglomeration of investment and retail banks, insurance companies, consumer loan corporations and stock brokerages. More than a mere deal-maker, he also brought "lean and mean" management to Wall Street by laying off workers, slashing benefits, raiding pension funds and substituting stock options for salaries. Wall Street Journal reporter Langley's colorful biography tells this story well. She paints a vivid portrait of Weill, whose messy appetites, towering tantrums and voracious desire for corporate jets and other status symbols make him seem occasionally pre-schoolish himself, and provides a blow-by-blow account of Wall Street's sometimes explosive restructuring grounded in pettiness, nepotism and backstabbing. It's hard, though, to see the drama in executive turf battles when even the losers walk away with $30 million golden parachutes, and larger issues can get lost in the soap opera of office politics. The economic ramifications of the financial industry's reorganization are hardly touched on, and the effects of Weill's draconian cost-cutting on the rank-and-file who bore the brunt of it are treated as an untroubling prerequisite to rising productivity and share-holder value. Langley's book is informative and highly readable, but there's a much bigger story to be told. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Forbes A riveting narrative.
The Economist A rollicking biography.
BusinessWeek A well-written, fast-paced read that does the best job yet of explaining who Weill is.
Time [A] richly reported recent history of Wall Street and corporate America told through an oversize personality.

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