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The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors

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Overview

The roller-coaster life of the flamboyant creator of General Motors

William C. Durant did big things the big way: he overreached, but, until his final failure, he picked up the pieces time after time to confound his competitors. From a turbulent childhood in the small town of Flint, Michigan, to his phenomenal success in creating General Motors, Durant's meteoric career easily rivals the success stories of modern legends like Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, and Bill Gates. With his ...

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Overview

The roller-coaster life of the flamboyant creator of General Motors

William C. Durant did big things the big way: he overreached, but, until his final failure, he picked up the pieces time after time to confound his competitors. From a turbulent childhood in the small town of Flint, Michigan, to his phenomenal success in creating General Motors, Durant's meteoric career easily rivals the success stories of modern legends like Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, and Bill Gates. With his trademark smile and personal charisma, Durant assembled General Motors in a few short years, buying companies at the rate of one every thirty days. Durant's deal-making artistry even tempted Henry Ford, and had Durant upped his acquisition price Ford would be a division of GM today.

Durant's story illuminates the conflict between innovation and control of innovation -of the uneasy alliances struck again and again between inventors and their sources of capital. His years of heady success building General Motors were marked by epic struggles with bankers. But he depended on only a few sources of big money to finance his exploding business, and pitted himself against forces he underestimated or refused to consider. Gambling on a run on GM stock, he was finally forced into a buyout that ousted him from his role in the GM empire.

Into the dramatic tale of this early twentieth-century mogul come the fascinating automotive pioneers -Henry Ford, David Buick, Charles Nash, Albert Champion, Louis Chevrolet, and Alfred P. Sloan. On Wall Street, J. P. Morgan turned down Durant's request for a loan while Pierre du Pont invested in Durant's expansion. Tracing the fortunes of a man and his era, The Deal Maker is a fast-paced, rousing tale of Durant's dizzying success and ultimate failure.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the early 1900s, entrepreneurs by the hundreds were looking for ways to build the best horseless carriage that would lead to a pot of gold. What set Durant apart from other would-be car czars was that, long before others caught on, he understood that the business was headed toward consolidation, and that to survive he would need access to big money. Madsen, a veteran biographer of Hollywood types (Stanwyck; Billy Wilder; etc.), relies on a few interviews and a lot of secondary sources to present a rather cursory but well executed glimpse of one of the giants of the automobile industry. After he secured the necessary capitalization, General Motors was formed in 1908, and Durant went on a buying spree that saw him add some 25 companies to GM by 1910. But a recession drove the company's bankers to demote Durant to a vice-president, a move that in the end set the stage for Durant's most satisfying personal triumph. Working through a new company he formed, Chevrolet, as well as with allies, Durant was able to win control of GM from the bankers in an unexpected coup. But the growing complexity of the car market made Durant's style of one-man rule outdated. Even before his failure to adopt modern management techniques could break him, he lost everything in the crash of 1929. While it doesn't shed any new light on the history of the automotive industry, Madsen's workmanlike narrative tells a well-structured story of innovation, financial derring-do and hubris. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471395232
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/11/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 427,406
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

AXEL MADSEN has written fifteen biographies, including Chanel: A Woman of Her Own; Gloria and Joe: The Star-Crossed Love Affair of Gloria Swanson and Joe Kennedy; Cousteau; and Malraux. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

The Man.

Rebecca's Boy.

Testing the Waters.

D & D.

Madison Square Garden.

David Buick.

Private Lives.

Carmaking.

The Selden Cartel.

Competition.

Affair of the Heart.

Checkered Flags.

Thinking Big.

Darwinian Lessons.

A "New Baby".

Back in the Saddle.

A Different Animal.

Du Pont.

Into the Roaring Twenties.

November Storm.

"Forget Mistakes" .

Feeding Frenzy.

Stock Pools.

Bubble Economy.

A Lion in Winter.

Afterimages.

Notes on Sources.

Bibliography.

Index.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2007

    Great history book

    The Deal Maker is a must read. A very well researched work here and of course a fascinating story of a man William C. Durant and how he founded GM and Chevrolet and becomes a multi multi millonaire. Then he is ousted from GM in 1920 and starts his our car company Durant Motors in 1921. The the big 29 crash takes him down and he dies the same year as Henry Ford in 1947 stone broke. A great book and really reasonable priced. Lance Haynes Past President Durant Motors Automobile Club

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