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Publisher's Summary

With the same breadth of vision and narrative élan he brought to his monumental biographies of the great financiers, Ron Chernow examines the forces that made dynasties like the Morgans, the Warburgs, and the Rothschilds the financial arbiters of the early 20th century and then rendered them virtually obsolete by the century's end. As he traces the shifting balance of power among investors, borrowers, and bankers, Chernow evokes both the grand theater of capital and the personal dramas of its most fascinating protagonists. Here is Siegmund Warburg, who dropped a client in the heat of a takeover deal because the man wore monogrammed shirt cuffs, as well as the imperious J. P. Morgan, who, when faced with a federal antitrust suit, admonished Theodore Roosevelt to "send your man to my man and they can fix it up". And here are the men who usurped their power, from the go-getters of the 1920s to the masters of the universe of the 1980s. Glittering with perception and anecdote, The Death of the Banker is at once a panorama of 20th-century finance and a guide to the new era of giant mutual funds on Wall Street.

©1997 Ron Chernow (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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Good short read

Not as dense as the normal Ron Chernow works I'm accustomed to but displays more of the historian's humor; short and sweet remembrance of the evolution of the world of high finance and it's key players

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Phil O.
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 04-27-17

Deep insights, wide comprehension, lively pace

I have read Mr Chernow's giant tomes The House of Morgan and The Warburgs. I liked them very much. But I like Mr Chernow better here, in this more squeezed format. In those huge books he had to labor to tell the whole story, which can be ponderous, versus here, where he can pluck out the really meaningful moments and toss them up with clever turns of phrase. The story can shed its ponderous elevator-music stretches, and sparkle. I am not one to love a movie merely because it has a romping pace to it: I require depth with my liveliness. And Mr Chernow delivers it. Here, despite my countless prior readings in this field (I've heard or read most anything in this non-fiction catalog with words like "banker," "Wall Street," or "money" in the title), the story (and let's be clear, the story principally of "high finance," versus the street-level "Main Street" stuff, though this moves toward the fore as the story goes along) snaps brilliantly into view, passage after passage. A new sheen appeared on the old characters and events. I bought a print version of this (1997-published) book, but was not enticed, flipping through it. Each passage seemed like a splinter, like a bit of a kaleidoscope turn, but I couldn't see any order. This audio version has set me straight on that. The narrator, to start, is a perfect fit. He sort of purrs in a dry amused voice that fits the wit and grace of this crackling-good prose. The writing is in a great articulate English that sadly may be fading. Meanwhile the actors, and their motives, and the picture large and small,all appear in clear relief and perspective. There is some conceptual background to help us filter the stories: it returns from time to time to remind of its theme of the dynamics and adventures of bankers in the three-cornered tug of war between capital sources, bankers allocating capital, and capital's consumers, but plunges back into the story in bold color and detail. I couldn't stop chuckling.
Now, about the aged nature of the book (20 years old now): it shows its age. But it bears this gracefully, handing me tools to understand the present.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 10-27-17

Dated book. 20 years old

The book is well written for its time but it’s 20 years old and not applicable today

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Mighty Fine Work, 5-Star Chernow

This is a great synthesis of Morgan, Rockerfeller, and the bad Warburg book. The narrator is good and Chernow is Chernow, high quality. It almost seems like Chernow is apologizing for the Warburg book by writing this book.

There is great content in every chapter of this book. I can recommend this book for a finance or history reader.

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Summation of The Warburgs and House of Morgan Bios

Author of two extensive biographies The House of Morgan and The Warburgs, this book is basically a condensed version of the two, or a summation. None the less it is interesting and informative detailing the history of investment banking and the great financial empires. It also concludes with a short biography on the subjects of the two biographies. I will not go into detail on the contents as the synopsis has done that for this work.

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Severely outdated

The "release date" of 04-25-17 had me erroneously believing this book had been updated. Nope. Kind of a lot has happened since 1997, including some of the most interesting things in the banking world, and many events that dramatically change the way much of the topics discussed in the book should be viewed. Several conclusions in the book are proven wrong by more recent events. So much has changed since 1997 that this book is pretty much irrelevant. There are a few good chapters on events that happened before the 1980s (like the discussion on J.P.Morgan).

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Not a book but lectures

This is three lectures put in book format. The last two seem tacked on to add length and mainly seem to be short summations of the author's two books on the subject: The Warburgs and The House of Morgan. There is a decent amount of overlap with the first lecture.

The meat is the first lecture and it starts well and is done well for a lecture. However, as a lecture, the people to whom it was addressed were also looking for insight on the "current" trends and situations and it starts to fall flat. It doesn't help that current is the mid to late '90s. If it had stopped before addressing the current situation it would have been a good overview and broad history, an excellent lecture but still not a book.

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Amazed: Banking History is Fascinating and Amusing

It's a rare breed of historian who can take a subject as apparently dull as "the demise of bankers" and make it fascinating and entertaining.

Think you'll be glad when a book of this nature is over? Think again! Pressing "Play" and already counting your lucky stars that Michael Kramer's brilliant, wry voice gets this history over with in a paltry 4 hrs and 37 mins? You are, I suspect, in for a very welcome rude awakening... you are about to discover that you are an unapologetically passionate student of the history of bankers (and banking), and to those who doubt the sincerity of your conversion, you will wish for the voice of Kramer as you utter your full defense: "You must read Chernow's The Death of the Banker... then we can talk."

AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

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Note copyright/printing date

It's difficult to really get to the heart of changing American finance without a telling of the 2006 mortgage crisis. Up through the mid-1990s, this book does a thorough and often fascinating job of telling the story.

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Not an easy read

This book contains three sections. The first, The Death of the Banker, is about the rise and fall of the investment banker as the economy changed from a state where most investment money was in the hands of relatively few individuals to the current state where money is now in the hands of mutual funds, pension funds and the stock market, mostly generated by small investors. I think that the subject should have been interesting but I personally found it to be largely stale and uninteresting and that surprises me as I had not thought that anything Ron Chernow wrote would be uninteresting.

The last two sections are brief bios of J. Pierpont Morgan and the Warburg family and after wading through the ups and downs of investment banking, they were a very pleasant change. Unfortunately they were way too brief and I suspect I may want to look into the biographies they represent.

The narration was quite good, but unless the reader has a thorough understanding of how financial instruments like trusts work, the material can be difficult to fully understand. I lack that background, but I did find much of the material interesting as a guide to how our economy has changed over the years and why men like J. Pierpont Morgan were as important as they were, but it can be tough going.