Barbarians at the Gate

By Bryan Burrough, John Helyar,

Book cover of Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Book description

“One of the finest, most compelling accounts of what happened to corporate America and Wall Street in the 1980’s.”
—New York Times Book Review

A #1 New York Times bestseller and arguably the best business narrative ever written, Barbarians at the Gate is the classic account of the fall of…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Barbarians at the Gate as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Though not a book about trading per se, this chronicle of the craziness surrounding the 1986 leveraged buyout of RJR-Nabisco is certainly worth a read.

It centers around the machinations of RJR-Nabisco’s breezy CEO, F. Ross Johnson, and how, apparently, being the head of one of America’s great companies wasn’t enough. The book really is as much a study of greed and ego as it is about what was, at the time, the most expensive LBO in history.

One gets the feeling the company in play, and its employees wondering what would be the impact on their lives once…

This book describes the delisting of RJR Nabisco by KKR through what was the largest leveraged buyout in history for two decades and became an instant classic in 1989.

A movie was adapted from it and its title became forever attached to the practice of transferring the ownership of a company notably thanks to debt financing. The book meticulously describes the actors of this operation, the conflicts of interest that plague the operation, and the underlying hubris and greed lurking in the background.

Although now dated, as LBO has morphed and evolved at high speed, and is now a far…

I think the best books use their central character or topic as a prism through which to look at a much broader phenomenon.

Barbarians at the Gate is not merely the gripping tale of a record-smashing, era-defining private equity deal, but a history of Corporate America, as told through the rise of the RJR Nabisco conglomerate and its subsequent dismemberment. 

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