Barbarians at the Gate - Summary and Key Ideas

"Barbarians at the Gate" is a narrative account of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, a major American conglomerate, in the late 1980s, highlighting the corporate greed, power struggles, and ego clashes involved.

The target group for the book "Barbarians at the Gate" is likely those interested in business, finance, and corporate history, particularly those intrigued by high-stakes corporate takeovers.

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Barbarians at the Gate

Key ideas


Ross Johnson's strategic maneuvering and charm led him from Nabisco to the CEO position at RJR Nabisco, highlighting a cultural clash between genteel tobacco and aggressive corporate politics.


Johnson orchestrates a secretive, high-stakes leveraged buyout, sparking tension and power struggles within the company.

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The 1988 RJR Nabisco buyout war was a chaotic frenzy of escalating bids, power struggles, and public scrutiny, marking the largest leveraged buyout in history.

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First Boston's chaotic, last-minute bid for the RJR Nabisco deal underscores the high-stakes brinksmanship of Wall Street in the 1980s.

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The final bidding for RJR Nabisco was a high-stakes game of strategy, deception, and miscalculations, where behind-the-scenes tactics proved as crucial as the headline bids.

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Despite a higher bid, RJR Nabisco favored KKR's offer in the largest leveraged buyout of the 1980s, sparking controversy and highlighting the risks and rewards of high-stakes financial deals.

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Summary & Review

"Barbarians at the Gate" by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar is a thrilling, detailed account of the largest leveraged buyout in history: the takeover of RJR Nabisco. The book provides an in-depth look into the world of Wall Street, corporate strategy, and the high-stakes game of corporate buyouts. It paints a vivid picture of the greed, arrogance, and reckless behavior that characterized the financial world in the 1980s. The authors expose the behind-the-scenes drama, the power struggles, and the personalities involved in this monumental deal.

Bryan Burrough, John Helyar

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal. John Helyar is a retired Bloomberg News reporter and a former writer for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune.

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