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Big Deal: 2000 and Beyond

By Bruce Wasserstein

Bruce Wasserstein offers an ample history of corporate mergers and acquisitions for the general reader.

927 pages
Warner Books (2000)

Reviewed by: Eric Howard

In this recently updated book, Bruce Wasserstein of Wasserstein Perella recounts the nuts and bolts of how and why big deals get made. With an approach more reminiscent of an academic than a businessman (Wasserstein is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Harvard Law, and Cambridge University), he reviews the merger mania of the twentieth century, illuminating deals, trends, and personalities. A central, understated argument is that market forces made the recent boom in big mergers and buyouts inevitable. Across the book's 927 pages (including a postscript, bibliography, and index), which are interspersed with sidebars and subheads that make it possible to skim for stories about specific deals and people, Wasserstein presents many lessons on what has worked, what has failed, and what needs to be remembered in the complicated game in which he is a famous player.

Devotees of transactional law, especially those who have at times felt overwhelmed by the ever-higher bidding and ever-bigger dealing of recent years, may find themselves relieved by Wasserstein’s sober, logical analysis of the past and summary of what appears on the horizon. Wasserstein's big book on big deals serves, at the least, as a counterweight to the Chicken Littles and the wild-eyed optimists whose books on American business never seem to go out of style. As Wasserstein puts it in his introduction: "This book is less about particular financial transactions and more about understanding the process our economy uses to adapt to change."

Readers who want more than level-headed analysis, however, can find plenty of juicy gossip and memorable triumphs and defeats. Wasserstein, after all, has been personally involved in hundreds of deals.

Lawyers can take note of the complications--and solutions to the complications--that ensue when regulators and shareholders, among others, react to a proposed deal. In short, this book offers something for the student of mergers and acquisitions, the businessman, the lawyer, and the investor.

Eric Howard is associate editor of Los Angeles Lawyer.