High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg

Overview

Bestselling author Niall Ferguson reveals for the first time the true extent of Siegmund Warburg's influence-and the lessons we can learn in a time of crisis from the last of the high financiers.

"Success from the financial and from the prestige point of view . . . is not enough; what matters even more is . . . adherence to high moral and aesthetic standards."
-Siegmund Warburg, 1959

In this pathbreaking new biography, based on more than ten thousand hitherto unavailable letters...

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Overview

Bestselling author Niall Ferguson reveals for the first time the true extent of Siegmund Warburg's influence-and the lessons we can learn in a time of crisis from the last of the high financiers.

"Success from the financial and from the prestige point of view . . . is not enough; what matters even more is . . . adherence to high moral and aesthetic standards."
-Siegmund Warburg, 1959

In this pathbreaking new biography, based on more than ten thousand hitherto unavailable letters and diary entries, bestselling author Niall Ferguson returns to his roots as a financial historian to tell the story of Siegmund Warburg, an extraordinary man whose austere philosophy of finance offers much insight today.

A refugee from Hitler's Germany, Warburg rose to become the dominant figure in postwar City of London and one of the architects of European financial integration. Seared by the nearcollapse and then "Aryanization" of his family's long-established bank in the 1930s and then frustrated by the stagnation of its Wall Street sister, Kuhn Loeb, in the 1950s, Warburg resolved that his own firm of S. G. Warburg (founded in 1946) would be different.

An obsessive perfectionist with an aversion to excessive risk, Warburg came to embody the ideals of the haute banquet-high finance- always eschewing the fast buck in favor of gilt-edged advice. He was not only the master of the modern merger and founder of the eurobond; he was also a key behind-the-scenes adviser to governments in London, Tokyo, and Jerusalem-to his critics, a "financial Rasputin." Like a character from a Thomas Mann novel, Warburg was a complex and ambivalent man, as much a psychologist, politician, and actor-manager as he was a banker. In High Financier Niall Ferguson shares the first book-length examination of a man whose life and work suggest an alternative to the troubled business principles that helped shape our current financial landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Siegmund Warburg (1902-1982), scion of a Jewish banking dynasty, fled Nazi Germany to London, where he became a leading banker and an informal economic adviser to prime ministers—but his importance doesn’t shine through this unfocused biography. Financial historian Ferguson (The Ascent of Money) styles him a financial innovator (he engineered Britain’s first hostile takeover), a pioneer of European economic integration (he helped invent the Eurobond), a “prophet of globalization,” a paragon of fiscal rectitude whose principles could have helped us avoid the current economic mess, and a deep thinker about international affairs. Unfortunately, Ferguson doesn’t make a compelling argument for his subject’s significance. Laymen will find his sketchy treatment of Warburg’s feats of “high finance” rather opaque and his case for Warburg the humanist and intellectual weak (and undermined by his subject’s obsession with handwriting analysis). Ferguson uses Warburg’s life as a window onto European unification and Britain’s postwar economic malaise, but his account, which is constantly distracted by deal making and office politics at Warburg’s banking partnership, is too unsystematic to do these topics justice. The view from Warburg’s lofty perch doesn’t make for a discerning perspective on the world around him. (July)
From the Publisher
"Ferguson brings great authority to this account.... [He] is a talented writer, capable of grace and insight, but it is his ability as a historian that shows most strongly in High Financier. —Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119401
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 1,472,996
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, and Colossus, he also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. Since 2003 he has written and presented three highly successful television documentary series for British television: Empire, American Colossus, and, most recently, The War of the World.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An illuminating biography of a pre-eminent financial genius of another generation

    This panoramic biography of Siegmund Warburg reveals a complex man who built international banking in response to the great turbulence of the 20th century. Given access to previously unavailable personal letters and diaries, Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard, spent 12 years profiling this singular man, who was shaped by early-20th-century Prussian Europe and lived through World War I, the rise of Nazism, the dark years of the Holocaust and post-World War II reconstruction. The book's title aptly describes Warburg's "lives," since he reinvented himself in the face of world and personal events. Ferguson artfully weaves Warburg's motives, business environment and family intrigues into the political evolution of Western Europe and the US. getAbstract highly recommends this detailed, readable biography of an extraordinary man.

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