From Predators to Icons: Exposing the Myth of the Business Heroby Michel Villette, Catherine Vuillermot
Pub. Date: 10/22/2009
Publisher: Cornell University Press
In the popular imagination, the business media, and the schools of business and management that train new generations of entrepreneurs and executives, achieving extraordinary success in business is attributed to far-sighted individuals who have taken bold risks, provided innovative leadership, and introduced new products, services, or ideas superior to those of the
In the popular imagination, the business media, and the schools of business and management that train new generations of entrepreneurs and executives, achieving extraordinary success in business is attributed to far-sighted individuals who have taken bold risks, provided innovative leadership, and introduced new products, services, or ideas superior to those of the competition. Amid the growing skepticism about the means by which vast amounts of wealth are accumulated and its consequences, however, this belief is long overdue for reevaluation.
In From Predators to Icons, Michel Villette, a sociologist, and Catherine Vuillermot, a business historian, examine the careers of thirty-two of today's wealthiest global executivesincluding Warren Buffett, Ingvar Kamprad, Bernard Arnault, Jim Clark, and Richard Bransonin order to challenge the conventional explanations for their extreme success and come to a better understanding of modern business practices.
In contrast to the familiar image of the entrepreneur as a visionary with a plan, Villette and Vuillermot instead discover a far less dramatic process of improvised adaptations gradually assembled into a coherent course of conduct. And rather than being risk-takers, those who are most successful in business are risk-minimizers. Huge gains, these case studies reveal, are most reliably obtained in circumstances where the entrepreneur has established careful provisions for risk reduction. As for the view that innovation makes success possible, the authors find that because innovation is an expensive process that takes a long time to produce profits, innovators first of all require capital; success makes innovation possible. The necessary resources, they show, are most often derived from what they provocatively term "predation": ruthlessly taking advantage of imperfections, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities within the market or among competitors. Finally, From Predator to Icon considers the "practical ethics" implemented during the phase in which capital is most rapidly accumulated, as well as the social consequences of these activities.
Drawing on interviews with some of their subjects and, crucially, close readings of the authorized biographies and other hagiographic accounts of these figures, which eliminates the bias of malicious interpretations, Villette and Vuillermot provide revelatory insights about the creation and maintenance of business wealth that will be profitably read by both the captains and the critics of contemporary capitalism.
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Table of Contents
Foreword John R. Kimberly ix
Interlude Jean-Paul Bucket 12
Part I The Businessman, an Enigmatic Figure
1 The Businessman in the Scholarly Tradition 17
Interlude Sam Walton the Fournier Defforey Families 30
2 Biographies and Numbers to Aid Understanding 40
Interlude François Pinault Vincent Bolloré 61
Part II How (Good) Deals Are Done
3 Becoming a Businessman 71
Interlude Ingvar Kamprad Jim Clark 92
4 The Good Deal: Key Moment in the Accumulation of Capital 101
Interlude Marcel Dassault 121
Part III What about Morality?
5 Charm, Promises, and Threats: The Good Deal as a Political Practice 131
Interlude Bernard Arnault 146
6 On the Virtue of Businessmen 159
Code Claude Bébéar 175
Appendix: Principal Results of the Quantitative Investigation 197
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