6 Finalists Announced for FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award
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Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression, and the Bankers who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (William Heineman/Random House UK, The Penguin Press USA)
Many of us take it as a given that the Great Depression – the consequences of which reverberated for decades, crippling the future of an entire generation and setting the stage for WWII – resulted from a confluence of inexorable forces beyond any one person or government’s control.
In fact, as erudite economist Liaquat Ahamed explains, it was the decisions taken by a small number of central bankers that was the primary cause of the economic meltdown.
In Lords of Finance, we meet the neurotic and enigmatic Montagu Norman of the Bank of England; the xenophobic and suspicious Émile Moreau of the Banque de France; the arrogant yet brilliant Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank; and the dynamic Benjamin Strong of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. These four men were as prominent in their time as Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson and Mervyn King are today, but their names were lost to history, their story untold, until now.
As yet another period of economic turmoil makes headlines today, the Great Depression and the year 1929 remain the benchmark for true financial mayhem. Lords of Finance brings a new understanding of the origins and global nature of financial crises, and offers a timely and arresting reminder that individuals – their ambitions, limitations and human nature – lie at the very heart of global catastrophe.
The Match King: Ivar Kreuger and the Financial Scandal of the Century by Frank Partnoy (Profile Books UK, Public Affairs USA)
Ivar Kreuger, the infamous “Match King,” is remembered as the most colorful and compelling business personality of the roaring 1920s. From 1929 to 1932, he was the most talked-about businessman in the world, for good reason. Wealthier than Morgan and as generous as Rockefeller, he miraculously survived the Great Crash, only to be found, one dark Paris morning, with a bullet through his heart. Opinions about Kreuger were deeply divided: hero or villain, innovator or fraudster, suicide or murder victim.
Known as the “Match King” because he held monopolies on the sale of matches in many countries, Kreuger’s financial empire extended to banking, construction, film, mining, paper, railways, and telephones. He was a statesman as well as a financier, and usurped Jack Morgan as the leading lender to Europe. He rescued France from bankruptcy, and nearly saved Germany. He charmed everyone, from President Hoover to Greta Garbo, to the journalists who put his boyish face on the covers of Time and The Saturday Evening Post. When asked to name his three rules for success in business, Kreuger advised “silence, more silence, and still more silence.”
Unfortunately, the silence killed, and by the end Kreuger’s shares were worth just pennies. Historians, including John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., labelled Kreuger the greatest fraud in history.
Congratulations to all the finalists. This year's winning author will receive £30,000, the other finalists will each £5,000 at the awards dinner in London on October 29th.
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