Summary of Barbarians at the Gate

The Fall of RJR Nabisco

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Barbarians at the Gate book summary
Vivid recounting of Wall Street plotting in the RJR Nabisco buyout, proving that, 20 years later, little has changed.


9 Overall

8 Importance

8 Innovation

9 Style


Some things – namely, greed and reckless behavior – never change. The leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco occurred in the late 1980s, but the 20th anniversary edition of this classic tale of excess reads as if it were reported and written today. Money-hungry CEO Ross Johnson and power-grabbing financier Henry Kravis remain relevant archetypes of their times. Journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar vividly capture the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the deal of the decade. getAbstract especially enjoyed the update on Johnson, Kravis and the rest, and recommends this book to those seeking a revelatory, page-turning account of high-profile greed.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What happened behind the scenes during the buyout of RJR Nabisco,
  • How three competitors struggled for control of the company and
  • Why the deal marked the end of the leveraged buyout era.


Unlocking Hidden Value with an LBO
The storied takeover of RJR Nabisco began when Ross Johnson, the company’s restless, free-spending CEO, looked to boost his company’s sagging stock price. RJR Nabisco ranked as the 19th-largest company in the United States, employed 140,000 workers and...
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About the Authors

Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough and Bloomberg News columnist John Helyar have also reported for The Wall Street Journal.

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