You can review the latest Business in Vancouver book reviews below, which feature contributions from UBC Library’s Jan Wallace and UBC Bookstore’s Treena Chambers.
Pulling back the curtain on Wall Street shenanigans
This article is from Business in Vancouver July 6-12, 2010; issue 1080
The Devil’s Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High-Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers
By Vicky Ward, Wiley, 2010
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, the famed 160-year old New York-based financial services firm, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history, following months of spiralling stock losses, client fund withdrawals and downgrading of the firm’s assets by credit rating agencies.
Ward is an investigative journalist working as a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Bloomberg TV and other popular media outlets. She focuses on the company’s history, but even more so on the key executives who shaped and ran the firm.
Chris Pettit was the charismatic leader who pulled Lehman together as “one firm,” but ultimately was ousted by rivals. Dick Fuld is portrayed as the chairman and CEO who depended on the judgment of his lieutenants to run the company, and continues to assert that he made the best decisions possible at the time. Joe Gregory is depicted as the scheming Lehman president more focused on outward appearances than the dangers looming in the firm’s balance sheets and accounting manoeuvres. Mark Walsh was the real estate ace who invested massively in Lehman’s commercial real estate deals and loans, which ultimately became toxic assets.
From the wives to the mistresses to the jewels, vacations, mansions, limousines, staff parties, benefit dinners and colossal bonuses, Ward’s account is gossipy, intimate and ultimately engaging as she recounts personal comments from the many people she interviewed – on and off the record – about the firm’s demise. Even a psychic was consulted so that Ward could communicate with the dead Pettit to understand him better. Notably, Fuld and Gregory did not co-operate with the author.
Lehman has been split up and sold. Barclays Bank now owns its North American investment banking and trading divisions and New York headquarters. Nomura Holdings acquired Lehman’s franchise in the Asia Pacific region, as well as the investment banking and equities businesses in Europe and the Middle East. The investment management business, including Neuberger Berman, was sold to Lehman management in December 2008; it is now known as Neuberger Berman Group LLC. •
Jan Wallace is head of the David Lam Management Research Library at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
The Leader Who Had No Title
By Robin Sharma
Free Press, 2010
Top leadership coach Sharma reminds us that pursuing personal leadership should not be limited by your title or position. The Leader Who Had No Title is a powerful reminder that developing and growing leadership talent within your organization will always enhance your company. Don’t be deceived by how simple the message seems – sometimes the simple things add the most value.
By Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
Nation Books, 2009
Do you run your business like a soccer franchise? If you do, Kuper and Szymanski have some advice for you. In Soccernomics, they take the emotion out of their analysis of the business of soccer. The authors test soccer myths using statistical analysis, patterns and business models. French club Olympique Lyonnais makes an interesting case study. Using the skills of a long-term sporting director, it has won the French league seven times. And which country is the most soccer mad? If you guessed Norway, you’d be right.
Free: The Future of a Radical Price
By Chris Anderson
While his arguments are not without flaws, in Free, Anderson gives us all something to think about. He believes in the importance of “free” giveaways for businesses in the Digital Age. Yet any parent who has lived through a Webkins phase can tell you about the costs of free. While there is a free online world where kids can register and play with digital versions of toys, actual toys cost real money. There is also a certain irony in the fact that it’ll cost you $19.99 to read Anderson’s views. •
Treena Chambers is the marketing technology co-ordinator at the UBC Bookstore.