Picks and Pans Review: Merger
It's nearly miraculous that a book telling a true story about lawyers and MBAs and conglomerates could be so exciting you'd give up sleep to read it. But Merger is that involving. It's an account of the 1982 takeover fight among Bendix, Martin Marietta, Allied and United Technologies. The battle began when Bendix boss Bill Agee (he of Mary Cunningham fame) made a bid to buy Martin Marietta, the aerospace giant. Then Martin Marietta offered to buy Bendix (and United Technologies offered to do the same). In the end, instead of buying anything, Bendix itself was bought by Allied. Ultimately they all spent about $2 billion just in the merger process. The tale is complex, but Hartz makes its intricacies understandable even to the average wage slave. He also makes the story as thrilling as a spy yarn and as horrifying as a Stephen King novel. It's scary to watch these grown boys spending millions on their egos and flying corporate jets around America just to pick up company T-shirts. Agee comes off worst (far worse, naturally, than he did in his wife's book, Power Play); he ends up looking like an ersatz Napoleon. Hartz is the son of Paul F. Hartz, a longtime member of the Bendix board—a fact the author should have 'fessed up to more conspicuously than in the jacket blurb. He also should have explained how he reconstructed the backroom and boardroom dialogue. Still, Merger is everything you thought business could never be: chilling, fascinating, even entertaining. (Morrow, $17.95)
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