Running American Business

The author opens with a quotation from William F. May, former CEO of American Can Company: “It is true that American business, which has generated wealth and prosperity for so many for so long, is in terrible trouble.” After a bloodbath of takeovers, American big business is lean, hungry, and sober, looking like an old champ trying for a comeback. RUNNING AMERICAN BUSINESS is timely and intriguing. Based on eighty-nine in-depth interviews with CEO’s of Fortune-500 firms, it offers a composite picture of present American business leadership. There are many impressive names among them, including David Rockefeller, T. Boone Pickens, and the ubiquitous Lee Iacocca. The reader is left with the impression that America’s top CEO’s are worried but hardly ready to throw in the towel. They have plenty of ideas--and ideas are what are needed. American business, they all agree, has a desperate need for new products, new technologies, new markets, and a new attitude.

Robert Boyden Lamb is Clinical Professor of Finance and Management at New York University. He founded the JOURNAL OF BUSINESS STRATEGY and has published sixteen books on business. One of his most interesting chapters is “The Phantom Club of CEO’s,” in which he explores the off-hours relations between heads of major firms and their impact upon politics and other aspects of American life. Management in recent decades has become an abstract art, which means that CEO’s from widely diverse enterprises all talk the same language.

The investor will be especially interested in the two chapters dealing with takeovers and turnaround strategies. Although the takeover wave has crested, there is still much profit to be made in the backwash. Turnarounds will undoubtedly draw attention in coming years because so many major corporations are in financial trouble and will either go up or go under--with the spotlight on the individual CEO. Thus, Lamb’s book will help the investor identify and understand the men whose decisions will determine the fate of the free enterprise system in this country.