Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Death of A Deal Man
Bruce ‘Bid’em-Up’ Wasserstein was born a deal maker. He was born in Brooklyn, went to the University of Michigan, studied business and law at Harvard, did a stint at Cambridge, became a Knox Fellow and authored a book, but his true love was deal making. He was called smart, driven, a chess player, a strategist, a tactician, but all he wanted to do was make deals. “In the deal world, there was Bruce, and then there was everyone else,” people said. He thrived in the deal making frenzy and he made deals always and everywhere so everywhere he went turned into the Deal World – the Hamptons, his Midtown office, home, planes, trains, automobiles. “Let’s make a deal,” he would say. And he made deals fast and furious, so fast and furious that once he overloaded First Boston’s phone system. His deals were many and varied: Philip Morri’s purchase of Kraft and General Foods; Ichan’s assault on AOL Time Warner; Kraft’s potential takeover of Cadbury; KKR’s takeover of RJR Nabisco; Texaco’s acquisition of Getty Oil; ABC’s sale to Capital Cities. Sometimes things did not work out. KKR’s takeover of Nabisco was a fiasco. Texaco’s acquisition of Getty led to a $10 billion court judgment. But through the thick and thin Bruce remained undeterred. He made deal making an art, made it a street fighter’s game, made it lucrative for himself and corporate raiders and greenmailers. He created the “Pac-Man defense” and “front-end loaded two-step tender”, built his own firm, sold his own firm, tried merchant banking, returned to deal making and accumulated immense wealth, but his true love remained deal making. On Wednesday, Bruce died. He left a wife, 3 ex-wives, 8 children, a tangled estate and an untold number of undone and as yet to be conceived deals behind.