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Back then, even though I had spent 5 years in the trenches, I had very little perspective on Wall Street, especially the history of LBO lending. Reading Anders' account of the leveraging-up cycle of the '80s hit me with the force of something like a revelation. The scales fell from my eyes — and I came to see my previous career in a completely different light.

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Coinci I first read this book when it was published in the early '90s, shortly after I had been fired from my job as a junkbond salesman. Coincidentally, as a teenager I had often caddied for Don Kelly, an important figure in Anders' story. I regret that George Anders hasn't published or said much about private-equity investing in recent years, which I think a great shame given his expertise and the recent discussions about PE occasioned by Mitt Romney's campaign. Hopefully Anders will someday publish an entirely new book on this subject, picking up where this one ends. I'd love to read a long, updated addendum.

View 2 comments. Aug 02, Eric rated it liked it Shelves: business-finance-history. If you have read Barbarians--if not, you should--Merchants of Debt is relatively duplicative. As the publication date suggests, you should look elsewhere I suggest Kings of Capital for a depiction of how s buyout firms evolved into the private equity i An engrossing and thorough history of KKR and the LBO craze of the s. As the publication date suggests, you should look elsewhere I suggest Kings of Capital for a depiction of how s buyout firms evolved into the private equity industry.

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An excellently written if occasionally dry account of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts' reign over the leveraged buyout era on Wall Street. Some of the social costs of LBOs are detailed, although not quite as thoroughly as I might've liked. When LBOs were successful, they worked out spectacularly well for the dealmakers KKR, Wall Street lawyers and bankers, commercial bankers , the target companies' senior executives, and shareholders, not as well for rank and file employees of the purchased companies, An excellently written if occasionally dry account of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts' reign over the leveraged buyout era on Wall Street.

When LBOs were successful, they worked out spectacularly well for the dealmakers KKR, Wall Street lawyers and bankers, commercial bankers , the target companies' senior executives, and shareholders, not as well for rank and file employees of the purchased companies, who were often laid off by the hundreds or thousands as management shut plants, factories, and stores to boost profits and pay down debt.

Anders, writing in , ends on an overly optimistic note: " Chastened lenders can be counted on to avoid a precise repeat of the follies of the s for a long time. Oct 02, Ankit Agrawal rated it really liked it. A highly engaging story and the most definitive history of the private equity and LBO powerhouse KKR from its origins in to the peak of its power in the mid to late '80s and eventual transformation to a steadier, more conventional entity circa The narrative prowess doesn't quite match that of Barbarians at the Gate which incidentally is the story of the most expensive and marquee deal K A highly engaging story and the most definitive history of the private equity and LBO powerhouse KKR from its origins in to the peak of its power in the mid to late '80s and eventual transformation to a steadier, more conventional entity circa The narrative prowess doesn't quite match that of Barbarians at the Gate which incidentally is the story of the most expensive and marquee deal KKR has done but is nevertheless good enough.

While Barbarians The principal characters i. KKR's success, however, was a result not just of the skills and enterprise of its partners but also fortuitous circumstances such as favorable laws, a favourable judicial system, a pro-free-market government and hence benign regulators. Once the optics turned ugly, the public opinion shifted for the worse and the loopholes in tax rules and other laws closed fairly quickly to make business-as-usual untenable.

KKR recognized this and adapted to the times by reorienting its business model. The epilogue gives some details on KKR's business today and the various other areas apart from buyouts that it has expanded to by way of keeping the book updated. The appendix gives basic details of all the odd buyouts that KKR did from Overall, Merchants of Debt is a balanced and neutral account of its subjects.

It doesn't gloss over inconvenient facts and presents views from both sides of the divide- the Wall Street as well as the politicians and the public. It is non-judgemental, choosing to let facts and research speak for themselves. Merchants of Debt is a historical narrative, not a technical book so one wouldn't be any wiser about the mechanics of individual deals upon reading of this book. This latter started out being written as an institutional record of KKR's business on the instructions of George Roberts the "R" in KKR but was turned into a project to be published for the general public.

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It draws upon detailed KKR records and focuses on the technical. I read this book after reading Barbarians at the Gate a few months back. I read this book to get a broader understanding of private equity in the "Age of Leverage.


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However, I thought the book spent too much time scratching the surface of many deals, especially when it came to ho I read this book after reading Barbarians at the Gate a few months back. However, I thought the book spent too much time scratching the surface of many deals, especially when it came to how the firm raised money. I would have been even more interested to go in depth on how KKR would restructure their portfolio companies to achieve their astronomically high rates of return for their investors beyond selling off weak divisions, lowering wages, or "improving efficiencies".

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