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The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals | [Frank Partnoy]

The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

At the height of the roaring 20s, Swedish émigré Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after Kreuger's suicide in 1932, the true nature of his empire emerged.
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Publisher's Summary

At the height of the roaring 20s, Swedish émigré Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression.

Yet after Kreuger's suicide in 1932, the true nature of his empire emerged. Driven by success to adopt ever-more perilous practices, Kreuger had turned to shell companies in tax havens, fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products - many of them precursors to instruments wreaking havoc in today's markets. When his Wall Street empire collapsed, millions went bankrupt.

Frank Partnoy, a frequent commentator on financial disaster for the Financial Times, The New York Times, NPR, and CBS's 60 Minutes, recasts the life story of a remarkable yet forgotten genius in ways that force us to rethink our ideas about the wisdom of crowds, the invisible hand, and the free and unfettered market.

©2009 Frank Partnoy; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A fascinating depiction of a man and his era (Greta Garbo makes memorable cameos), this book is a snapshot of a time all too familiar now: a speculative real estate bubble, unbridled consumer spending, investors buying derivatives based on sketchy information and a Wall Street operating by its own rules." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (137 )
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  •  
    Donovan G. Rinker Cambridge, MA 06-17-10
    Donovan G. Rinker Cambridge, MA 06-17-10 Listener Since 2009

    donoglen

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "excellent Depression era history-biography"

    A powerful morality tale - Ivar Kreuger's scams are as relevant today as ever, and the reading of financial biography works nicely.
    Partnoy peppers his biography with colorful history, as well as the occasional tangent (e.g., where did the term "bucket shop" come from?).

    Whereas Ponzi's scheme (and Madoff's variation) are relatively simple pyramids, feasible only when observers opt to maintain their ignorance, Kreuger's methods are far more convoluted, and such methods continue to elude professionals today.

    The reading is accessible, the pacing appropriate, and the lessons learned far more useful than those available in most financial/biographical options.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frances Upper Montclair, NJ, United States 12-29-09
    Frances Upper Montclair, NJ, United States 12-29-09 Member Since 2005
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    "A fascinating story well-told"

    This was a terrific story of amazingly creative deception and greed - almost hard to believe because it had so many twists and turns. I really enjoyed LJ Ganzer's narration and energetic delivery.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-10-09
    09-10-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "The Match King"

    This book is fabulous. Just when I thought the interest level had peaked, it got more interesting, right up to the end.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Max Hollmann Florida 02-24-13
    W. Max Hollmann Florida 02-24-13 Member Since 2008

    Non Fiction Reader

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    "Fascinating"

    As a banker and CPA I found the book enthralling. The characters, and what they schemed and accomplished could have been written last week. I never knew that such sophisticated and complicated financing existed in the 1920's. The author describes the financial details so anyone can understand them. I think he could have better developed the various national economies that Kreuger did business in better. His main focus is on Kreuger and at times it appears he is a universe onto himself apart from world affairs. It seems the world depression was just one of many events that get a mention. One does not get an impression that Kreuger, with all of his financial acumen and personal knowledge of world leaders could have foretold what would happen.
    I found the coda far fetched. The author seems to feel that all aspects of Kreuger's death have to be explained or theorized upon. Since none of his scenarios can be verified they take on the aura of the worst of sensationalist tabloid journalism.
    Aside from the very last chapter, I found the book fascinating, useful and highly recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry 12-04-12
    Terry 12-04-12

    TJ

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Greed! Wallstreet at the time of the Crash!"

    This book is very well read and I enjoyed immensely. However, upon reflection the writing lacks depth in terms of development of the characters. Probably the author couldn't get any more information.

    The pace is quick and gives a good snapshot of Wallstreet, the world economy and lifestyles of the rich at the time of the 1929 crash. The book left me wanting to know more about Ivar Kreugar as a person, but his very private lifestyle apparently prevents this level of detail.

    L.J Ganser does a great job narrating this book. I'm looking forward to listening to more of his readings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Tomball, TX, United States 04-06-12
    Michael Tomball, TX, United States 04-06-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Intriguing Story About a Financial Genius"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I would recommend it. The author seems pretty objective in assessing the good and bad of Kreuger, and providing us with evidence. A big plus. It's interesting hearing the story of IK and how he made his fortune. Amazing how he crashed through barriers, created businesses and wealth, and invented new financial instruments.

    But, while IK was a genius, he also had some really bad premises that destroyed him: he accepted government involvement in the economy, he agreed with the idea of government monopolies, he engaged in some fraud, deciet and dishonesty. Would have been interesting, if he had better premises, seeing how he turned out and what would have happened.

    I'd have liked, though, to have had more identification of what, psychologically and morally, made him wealthy and what conflicts he had to work through to achieve the successes he did. In other words, I'd have liked some rational philosophic analysis.


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting that, like Steve Jobs, IK had a practiced, intense stare. But, unlike Jobs, he did not focus only on making great, economical products. In both cases, the scale on which they work brings out their premises -- premises other people have, too, but which are not seen much since most people don't live large and develop the consequence of their ideas so fullly and broadly; lots of people just sit around and mope through life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel D Offenberg 09-29-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Colorless and tiresome"

    I'm sure the story of the rise and fall of Ivar Kreuger's financial empire was full of interest, but this telling seems terribly bland. If you are really interested in Ivar Kreuger's story, I suppose it would do. But it seems tiresome, bland and remote.

    This is exacerbated by L. J. Ganser's reading, which was flat and uninspired. I've heard two books narrated by Ganser, and I have found his narration in both lacking in flavor.

    If you are interested in a story of financial shennangians with colorful character, try "Ponzi's Scheme" by Mitchell Zuckoff and narrated by Grover Gardner.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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  • Jeanette
    Barnsley, United Kingdom
    11/9/10
    Overall
    "History is far from bunk"

    Beautifully read and paced, this is an important and accessible account of an important time in the history of capitalism. It is easy to follow and holds important messages about the financial system in the USA and Europe before WWII. There are many messages in The Match King: that systems can be manipulated, not always illegally; that it is easy to blame the 'bad apple' for financial disasters, and ignore the nature of the system; that positive aspects of negative behaviours may be forgotten. I highly recommend this audio book if you want understand how easy it can be to 'hi-jack' economic systems, and how 'gullible' those in power can be. 'Those who know no history are doomed to repeat it', and 'if it sounds to good to be true, it is'. Enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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