“…the raciest business book you’ll read all year…” (Business Eye, August 2004)
“For a pacy, racy, throwaway beach read, Testosterone Inc. scores highly.” (CFO Europe, July 2004)
"...while there is a remarkable amount of business history, there is enough talk of divorces...to justify taking this to the beach.” (The New York Times, July 11, 2004)
"...entertaining and eye-opening..." (Barron's, June 7, 2004)
"...unearths tantalizing stories of bad behavior ." (USA TODAY, June 1, 2004)
Even before this business columnist's new book was released, the publisher was fielding calls from Jack Welch's lawyerand that was just for the cover. The next 402 pages should really interest them. Byron, whose last book was the best-seller "Martha Inc.," is known for dishing. In his tales of "CEOs gone wild," even the mightiest corporate giantsWelch, Al Dunlap, Dennis Kozlowski and Ron Perelmansuccumb to the most basic urges, falling victim to greed, gluttonyor a temptress in a tight dress. "Testosterone" reads like a juicy novel but, as its elaborate footnotes remind readers, the stories are true. (Or, at least, they've yet to be contested in court). (Newsweek, May 17, 2004)
This is surely a first - a glandular history of how big shot CEOs ran their companies variously into ridicule and bankruptcy and themselves into criminal prosecution and infamy.
Christopher Byron, author of the scathing story of convicted felon Martha Stewart, Martha Inc., has trumped that book with this account of the foibles of a gang of four once-esteemed, now ridiculed CEOs. In the cast are "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, who destroyed Sunbeam Inc.;, Dennis Kozlowski, who awaits retrial after a jury got hung on the question of his guilt in sucking $800 million in personal benefits out of Tyco; Ron Perelman, who used junk bonds to take over Revlon and Revlon to assault Hollywood and not a few blondes; and Jack Welch, who used his brains, personality, and utter lack of restraint to wrest a king's fortune of personal benefits out of General Electric and to give a pretty big fortune to his ex-wife when discovered doing legovers with the editrix of the Harvard Business Review.
With superb scholarship and a novelist's sense of character, Mr. Byron takes his reader into the antics of his cast. He reveals that Al Dunlap, a "beast" as he calls him, wouldn't even buy maternity clothes for his wife or togs for his baby. An artiste both in accounting and issuing pink slips, Al fired everybody in sight, got his factories to turn out barbecues that he shipped out to retailers who didn't want them and would not pay, later rented warehouses to hold all the unsold inventory, then showed the unsold things as sold and paid for. When his financial knitting was undone, Sunbeam unraveled like a cheap suit. Had the board that hired him done their homework, they would have discovered a sociopath who had done much the same thing in a former job at a paper company.
The information about Dunlap and most of what Mr. Byron reveals about Messrs. Welch, Perelman and Kozlowski is known and in the public record. But the motivation - how these guys let their pants do their thinking for them - is instructive for investors.
It is an old adage that when the head of a major industrial company or any outfit doing something intrinsically dull figures he'll sell out and buy a movie studio, what is really going on is that the CEO wants to hump some stars. Think of how Edgar Bronfman dumped chemical maker DuPont and went to Hollywood and lost most of his family's money in movies and Vivendi and you get the point.
Irresistible, wonderfully well written, superbly documented, Testosterone Inc. is a book that can drive any investor to shudders. A few spelling errors in French, in Mafia terminology like consigliore (sic) and the name of a swank New York hotel, the Sherry Netherlands (should be singular) are harmless. A better index would let the reader see how some institutions, such as the Wharton School of Finance, were hatcheries for Wall St. felons). But no matter. This book is a fabulous read. (Toronto Globe & Mail, May 17, 2004)
Imagine, if you will, a supermarket tabloid like, say, the Weekly World News—but devoted exclusively to business celebs, with headlines like Scientists Say Larry Ellison Is a Space Alien! and Meg Whitman Is Caught in Secret Love Nest! The rag would naturally sport the cheesy tabs' unique editorial tone, by turns breathless, sniggering, outraged, awed. Got that? Okay, so picture it 375 pages long, minus the space aliens and Meg Whitman, and you have the flavor of Christopher Byron's new book, Testosterone Inc.: Tales of CEOs Gone Wild (John Wiley & Sons). Every now and then a book comes along that is so silly and mean-spirited that it leaves you slack-jawed. This, friends, is one.
It's not that Byron hasn't done his homework. In taking on four big kahunas—Jack Welch, Ron Perelman, Dennis Kozlowski, and Al Dunlap—the author writes that he pored over 15,000 documents, not neglecting divorce files and police reports. Oh, boy. But it turns out all that due diligence was a fig leaf for Byron's true obsession: sleazy sex lives of the rich, here gleefully served up with a big dollop of self-righteousness. Rich and powerful men behave badly, he intones, because at "approximately the 144th month of life ... testosterone levels in males simply shoot off the chart." Okay, but if that happens in all males, doesn't that make these four just human? Byron's whole premise suggests that these guys' shenanigans were caused by sky-high testosterone, but who can say? Certainly not Byron: None of his victims would let him get close enough for an interview, let alone a blood test.
Footnotes abound, and Byron tucks many of his wilder suppositions—such as one alleging that Jack Welch's new wife, Suzy Wetlaufer, attempted to "improve and upgrade" the background of Jack's ex-wife Jane—into them. Wetlaufer declined to comment, and that seems to have been a smart call. After all, would you talk to the Weekly World News? – Anne Fisher (Fortune Magazine, May 17, 2004)
“Combine[s] an understanding of balance sheets with an ear for gossip and an eye for human failings.” (Daily Telegraph, 8 May 2004)
“New York journalist Christopher Byron lays bare the sexual antics of America’s most celebrated business heroes.” (Daily Telegraph, 5 May 2004)