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Publisher's Summary

A true story of family, ambition, and greed in the most bitter and controversial takeover struggle in business history. The high-stakes fight between Texaco and Pennzoil to take over Getty Oil is a startling and intriguing case involving family infighting, courtroom drama, and corporate intrigue that ends in bankruptcy and the largest damages award in American history.

©1987, 1988 Steve Coll (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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Incredible research

Extremely well researched. I could see where someone would say it's somewhat dry. The complete story of the biggest merger up till that time in the 80s and the lawsuits that followed and almost destroyed both companies involved in the lawsuit. The speaker has an awesome voice for movie previews or a murder mystery TV show but it's hard to follow the story through his voice. There are a couple times where the story and the speakers voice match tempo but it's not till late in the book and it's only long enough for you to realize how distracting it has been.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 08-27-15

Sibling contention, intrique, courtroom drama

Steve Coil, a correspondent for the Washington Post has painstakingly reconstructed telephone conversations, meetings and written memoranda to set out the events leading to the litigation between Pennzoil and Texaco. Coil has maintained his reporter’s objectivity, not condemning anyone but staying neutral throughout the book. The book was originally published in 1987.

The first part of the book is about the Getty family and their inner fights. The middle of the book is about Getty oil and its corporate officers and board members and their relationship with Gordon Getty. The last part of the book is about the trial.

Three and a half years of haggling and infighting preceded the legal judgment. Gordon Getty, one of the J. Paul Getty’s sons became sole trustee of the Sarah C. Getty Trust, which owned 40% of Getty Oil’s stock. Gordon Getty maneuvered for control of the company in opposition of the company management and his family. Pennzoil thought they did a takeover in January of 1984 in an agreement in principle to buy the bloc of Getty Stock, then the following week Texaco offered more money and bought the same stock.

On November 1985 a Houston court awarded a ten billion dollar judgment against Texaco to Pennzoil. It is the largest damages award yet made in an American business case.

The book by Coil reads like a novel with lots of drama, family conflicts and business fighting. I found the book most interesting. Steven Cooper narrated the book.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Masterful telling of a cautionary business tale by a masterful journalist.

Steve Coll is one of the great nonfiction writers of our day. The personalities described in this tome are complex and deep with the exception of the clearly shallow money grubbers and cheats.The story develops from the death of a trusted attorney to the feeding frenzy of the takeover craziness of the mid 80s by executives, investors, attorneys and bankers with varying degrees of integrity. There are no true heroes with plenty of greed; enough for extra helpings. I will spoil the ending: The shareholders lose :-( 🤠

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  • Phil O.
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 05-01-15

Dazzling on so many levels

Gripping elements abound: the absurdities of vast amounts of multi-generational wealth tumbling from the dead hand of a wildly creative-ruthless-disruptive patriarch into widely varied (and wildly eccentric) hands; the wealth-and-prestige-oozing scene rapidly developing a rich ecosystem of alliances, schemers, hangers-on, betrayals, awful legal conundrums trapping the most calculating people; swirling pools and eddies filled with lawyers, syncophants (some in very expensive trappings!), corporate chiefs, raiders, swarming in all directions and alignments, clawing for the glittering (or rather, oily) prize; and the climactic perfect storm systems one can see, brewing, frothing, forming up and approaching, to sweep these characters into fortune or chaos, willy-nilly.
Yet, there is a clear determinism in the sequence of events, a logical flow, but unpredictable, in the way impenetrable chaos is deterministic. It makes sense in the (skillful) telling, but midstream, we can't tell where it (and the characters) will wind up. I.e., this is a great explication of real life, with a kicker of billions of dollars whipped into the mix, a sort of accellerant.
All this is told in meticulous, lucid, businesslike detail. The author understands the legal structures and the stakes, and wastes barely a word describing each moment. The tempo delights me. This is not a sloppily written book. All the weirdness and hilarities of narrative twists are somehow laid out in a sober and constantly understandable sequence. Despite all this, if you don't like corporate/legal matters, you might not enjoy this so much. But for me, the colorful stories of a truly weird family provide a strangely hilarious relief peppered all through the sophisticated structures and plot turns. I can't get enough of it, and fortunately this is a prolific author. On deck: The Exxon-Mobil book. I have a new favorite author.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Hugo
  • 05-14-15

Superb

Exceptionally well written and read.
A financial story that reads like a thriller with the biggest egos in the world.