Book Review: The 50 Best (and Worst) Business Deals by Michael Craig (2000)

I picked up this book on one of the book-buying binges Heather and I shared last month. I found it in the business section of A Collector’s Bookshop, Sheldon’s new hole in the wall in Maplewood. He doesn’t have much on hand, yet, but I expect that to change. Regardless, this looked interesting. So it is.

Craig has structured the book around 10 common sense rules, with each chapter containing a capsule analysis of several deals that epitomizes the rule, or proves how ignoring the rule can break a deal. For example, one rule is “Take advantage of your adversary’s weakness” (Chapter 2). Essentially, it boils down to buy when the seller has to sell. France needed a hunk of money to finance its European wars, so the United States got the Louisiana Purchase at the bargain basement price of three cents an acre.

Because of Craig’s background as a big dog attorney means he focuses a lot on the leveraged buyouts of the 1980s. To be honest, all I really remember about them is the mythology handed down as received wisdom, mostly from people who disapproved of them. However, as encapsulated in these vignettes, it makes sense in some cases. Even breaking up companies that are underperforming. Call me a capitalist.

The book weighs in at under 200 pages, and the easily digestible chapters and sections make it a book you can put down. And pick back up. I read this book at work, during lunch breaks, without missing beats. Some books are good for that.

So this book is worth a read. The rules are common sense, but the rewards for following them, as well as the negative sanctions for not following them, offer concrete illustrations that The Art of War does not.