Barbarians at the Gate
The fall of RJR Nabisco

Written by Bryan Burrough annd John Helyar

I bought it and read it on a kindle


A very entertaining account of Ross Johnson and his career in the old coorperate America. Think “Wolf of Wallsteet” excess, and the plot from “Wallstreet”. Johnson maximises his talents for smoozing and backstabbing and gets to control a huge company with a fleet of private jets, corporate villas and limosines.

These things actually happened. Just pause for a second and realise that a 40 something middle manager from a sleepy company propelled himself to the very top of capitalism and put no constraints on his own excessive and luxurious life style. Ross Johnson understood that control is worth more than ownership. He scandered the money from his companies, while controlling the board and he cared more about what his friends thought of him than what his companies actually produced.

The descriptions in the book made me laugh to myself, and relay the stories to my friends who couldn’t believe that these things actually happened.

What I learned from reading about Ross Johnsons career was how much relations matter. From what I could read Ross Johnson had very little talent for managing a business, but he was very skilled at managing people and relationships.

To me, technical understanding has always been in focus. I would prefer technical skills over people skills, but oh how wrong I was.

The boook is written by a couple of financial journalists who understand the environment that they are describing. Their angle is mostly about dramatizing the story that played out in public in the 1980’s. The authors have managed to created a very detailed story, told from many different people involved. They have gathered their information from firsthand accounts and news articles written at the time.

You feel like you are sat right next to Henry Kravis of KKR and Ross Johnson, while they wine and dine their way through investors, lawyers and accountants on their quest to making an absolute killing.

Do yourself a favour, and don’t look up the story on wikipedia before you read the book. The actual story takes so many turns that you think to yourself that it could have never happened in real life, but it has and it probably will again.

Written by Vincens Riber Mink on 01 December 2015