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Deals of the Century: Wall Street, Mergers, and the Making of Modern America

Deals of the Century: Wall Street, Mergers, and the Making of Modern America

Charles R. Geisst

ISBN: 978-0-471-48085-3

Mar 2004

330 pages


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Throughout history, mergers and acquisitions have been the major game played on Wall Street. These deals have had far-reaching effects, on the worlds of finance and industry - more than most commentators or financiers are publicly willing to admit.

Deals of the Century captures this dynamic moment in history by taking an in-depth look at the most notable merger and acquisition deals of the twentieth of Carnegie Steel in 1901 to the creation of the former AOL Time Warner, renowned business historian and bestselling author Charles Geisst traces the deals that have had the most dramatic impact on the worlds of both finance and industry over the past century. Decade by decade, you'll be introduced to the personalities behind each event, as industries are built, dismantled, and reorganized by "professionals" driven mainly by the profits extracted from the deals themselves.

Engaging and informative, Deals of the Century paints an exciting portrait of the incredible M&A journey and illustrates how many of these deals changed the face of business, creating a modern capitalist society that continues to grow.


Chapter One. Building the Infrastructure.

Chapter Two. Driving to the Store.

Chapter Three. Power Plays and Conspiracy Theories.

Chapter Four. Roll Over, Euclid.

Chapter Five. Visigoths versus the Legions.

Chapter Six. Spawned by Deregulation.

Chapter Seven. Old Bedfellows.



Geisst (Wall Street: A History) draws on a storehouse of financial lore in this eye-opening survey to 100 years of corporate deals that have grown increasingly spectacular with each decade. From the century's first megadeal - the formation of U. S. Steel in 1900 - through the fabled 1986 leveraged buyout of Beatrice and its even more cantilevered counterparts of the 1990s, he profiles the larger-than-life personalities who have been the driving forces behind the regularly recurring cycle of mergers. Geisst also revels in describing the constantly changing face of corporate financing over the century. The needs of expanding industries like automobiles and retail merchandising couldn't be met by the wealthy financiers in J.P. Morgan's circle in the early years of the 1900s and made the careers of a new breed of investment bankers possible. Geisst shows how the laissez faire economic policy and deregulation that swept in with the Regan Administration in 1981 set the stage for a deluge of megadeals in previously regulated airlines, energy utilities, telecommunications and banking industries. For all the staggering number, dollar value and complexity of the deals, not to mention the excitement surrounding them, Geisst comes to a sobering conclusion: "Most of the Large mergers of the century were nothing more than a way of allowing shareholders and executives to cash out their existing holdings at a profit while often containing costs at the same time by downsizing operations, firing staff and cutting services." Geisst sees the century ending much as it began, with a small group of powerful financial captains determining the structure of our major industries. (Nov.)
Forecast: The many readers trying to make sense of Wall Street will be grateful for Geisst's comprehensive and thoughtful retelling of the turmoil and transformation of the past 100 years. (Publishers Weekly, October 27, 2003)

Even during the late 1990s boom, it was common knowledge that most acquisitions failed to justify the premiums paid to make them happen. Yet the deals continued. This colorful narrative shows the same pattern throughout the twentieth century. Geisst, a historian, describes the trinity of interests that drove most deals: shareholders of the acquired firms wishing to sell out, investment bankers eager for fees, and executives at the acquiring firms seeking a growing empire and higher compensation. These interests, he argues, usually overwhelmed any actual synergies for the acquirers themselves—as evidenced by the fact that most deals happened only when stock prices were rising and investors were least likely to object. Nevertheless, Geisst implies, deal making must have had some larger social purpose, because he ties it to the development of the prosperous U.S. economy as a whole. Even if deal making has not directly boosted shareholder value, for example, it surely facilitated entrepreneurship in the long run in that it made entrepreneurs confident that they could find buyers when they wanted out. (Harvard Business review, December 2003)

  • BESTSELLING AUTHOR: Geisst has been well reviewed in such important business publications as The Wall Street Journal. A veteran author of 13 books, Geisst has published with Wiley, Oxford University Press, and McGraw-Hill.
  • INTRIGUING: Fascinating insight as Geisst connects events and deals with the world of modern finance.
  • VALUABLE ADDITION TO THE LITERATURE: Histories of Wall Street have been well received by the general audience and are well represented on the history and finance shelves. A history of the biggest, most influential mergers has yet to be done. Geisst has the proven skills to paint an exciting portrait of this dynamic aspect of financial history