The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals [NOOK Book]


At the height of the roaring ?20s, Swedish ?migr? Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products? many of them precursors to instruments wreaking ...
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The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

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At the height of the roaring ’20s, Swedish émigré Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products— many of them precursors to instruments wreaking havoc in today’s markets. In this gripping financial biography, Frank Partnoy recasts the life story of a remarkable yet forgotten genius in ways that force us to re-think our ideas about the wisdom of crowds, the invisible hand, and the free and unfettered market.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Partnoy (F.I.A.S.C.O.) delivers a thrilling account of the grandfather of all Ponzi and Madoff schemes-Ivar Kreuger (1880-1932), who made his fortune in the 1920s by raising money from American investors to lend to European governments in exchange for match monopolies. Kreuger was creating more than matches, it turned out; the "master of investor psychology" created "the forerunners of today's derivatives" and techniques that are still used by hedge funds and investment banks. Shortly after his suicide in 1932, his schemes finally unraveled. The "Kreuger crash" bankrupted millions and led to the securities laws of 1933 and 1934-a "political reaction to a single event and to one man." Partnoy achieves a nuanced portrait of the charismatic and corrupt financial genius whose advice was sought by Herbert Hoover and other heads of state. A fascinating depiction of a man and his era (Greta Garbo makes memorable cameos), this book is a snapshot of a time all too familiar now: a speculative real estate bubble, unbridled consumer spending, investors buying derivatives based on sketchy information and a Wall Street operating by its own rules. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Ivar Kreuger, known to aficionados of fraud cases as "the Match King," flourished 80 years ago. As this latest biography shows, his complex schemes could have occurred just yesterday-or might again tomorrow. Partnoy (Law/Univ. of San Diego; Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets, 2003, etc.) traces the fabulous rise and spectacular fall of the financier. Once counted among the wealthiest men on earth, Kreuger charmed royalty, tycoons and reporters, as well as Greta Garbo and Herbert Hoover. Along with dubious secret enterprises, he ran some legitimate businesses, including mining, construction and the manufacture of much of the world's matchsticks, financing sovereign governments in exchange for match monopolies. With fancy, arcane footwork, Krueger embellished real deals with shady transactions involving many of his dozens of affiliated firms. Money flowed from Wall Street to Stockholm, the Netherlands to Poland with scant documentation. He booked false gains to pay consistent 25 percent dividends. He kept real liabilities off balance sheets. Politicians, investors, brokers and bankers-with the notable exception of J.P. Morgan-were pleased to join the fun, no questions asked. It all unraveled in 1932 when Kreuger committed suicide and his transgressions were exposed. Estimates of losses vary, notes Partnoy, but millions worldwide were bankrupted. The author assiduously parses the data and pays special attention to the way Kreuger's American accountant was hustled. He also emphasizes that, despite clear deceit and a touch of forgery, the Match King wasn't entirely bad. After all, he made real money with a few real businesses. A pertinent, timely tale offinancial fraud and how it was maintained for so long. Agent: Theresa Park/Park Literary Group
From the Publisher

George A. Needham, Founder and Chairman of Needham & Company
"The tale of Ivar Krueger, vividly brought to life by Frank Partnoy, is a reminder that Wall Street has not changed much since the late 1920's. The players change, but the animal spirits remain the same. Anyone interested in today's financial crisis will be captivated by this story."

Time, January 13, 2009
“Frank Partnoy has an exceptionally well-timed book on Ivar Kreuger coming out.”

Robert A. G. Monks, author of Corpocracy and The New Global Investors
The Match King is a skillfully told tale of the romance and the corruption involved in attempting to be on top of the world. How did Krueger enlisted the loyalty of the people essential to him? Yes, some he bought, but most -- he beguiled.”

Ron Chernow, The New Yorker, 3/23
“An engrossing study of Ivar Kreuger.”

Kirkus, 4/1
“A pertinent, timely tale of financial fraud and how it was maintained for so long.”

Booklist, review 4/15
“A timely and excellent book.”

Wall Street Journal
“Frank Partnoy tells the story of Kreuger's rise and calamitous fall in an eminently readable and scholarly biography…the tale of the Match King holds lessons for our own day and for future generations.”

“An absorbing tale and a poignant reminder that every boom has its scoundrels…Partnoy gives us a rich account of the Roaring Twenties' most astounding confidence man”

The Economist
“[The Match King] provides a fascinating insight into how high society falls prey to such colourful characters. Kreuger’s story is uncannily relevant today.”

New Jersey Star Ledger
“Ivar Kreuger, the super-secretive Swede who made Ponzi look like a piker, doesn't readily come to mind when discussing over-the-top scamsters. But Frank Partnoy's spreadsheet-thorough book should help change that.”
The Match King is a fun, thought-provoking read that might have seemed like an archaic detour if it had been published five years ago, but now should be required reading for would-be regulators.”

Christian Science Monitor
“Oh, how we love to read about the downfall of the rich and famous! Especially the rich. Especially when they’re corrupt. Consider Swedish industrialist Ivar Kreuger, the Bernard Madoff of his time, whose story is explored in Frank Partnoy’s brisk new biography The Match King.”

NPR’s ‘Planet Money’
“[A] great story about aspiration and deceit and the mania that can come with investing.”

“In his biography The Match King, Partnoy shows how Kreuger transformed himself from a withdrawn Swedish boy to a superstar, international businessman and financier … Partnoy knows how to ratchet up the suspense.”
“Frank Partnoy’s The Match King—which should be required reading for every financial whiz or businessman who claims to be performing due diligence on a too-good-to-be-true investment opportunity—is not just a proof of that truism but a painfully captivating account of just how easily those suckers are found and fleeced by the Madoffs of the world.”

New York Times Book Review
[A] true-life business thriller…[Partnoy] has a historian’s assiduous dedication to telling the truth in all its uncomfortable complexity.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786741540
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 3/9/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 453,141
  • File size: 494 KB

Meet the Author

Frank Partnoy is the author of F.I.A.S.C.O.: Blood in the Water on Wall Street and Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Greed Corrupted the Financial Markets. A graduate of Yale Law School, he is the George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance at the University of San Diego.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Coming to America 1

2 Getting to Lee Higg 15

3 The Speech 29

4 Trouble at Home 46

5 The Green Eye Shade 59

6 Poland First 70

7 Le Boom 91

8 The Match Palace 112

9 A Weekend in Germany 135

10 One Last Chance 156

11 Coming Back to America 179

12 Death in the Air 193

13 Greatness? 201

14 Coda 218

A Note on Sources and Acknowledgements 227

Bibliography 230

Notes 236

Index 263

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Gripping biography of a fascinating business genius and con man

    Readers who love fascinating stories with unforgettable characters will thank professor and market expert Frank Partnoy for his book on 1920s business icon Ivar Kreuger. This remarkable figure was a global financier, Greta Garbo's close companion, and an adviser to prime ministers, kings and a U.S. president. Though he was one of the world's greatest con men, he has somehow slipped, all but forgotten, from popular history. Partnoy resurrects Kreuger in all his tragic glory: a successful, well-known entrepreneur whose abrupt fall from grace and apparent suicide - by a bullet through the heart - coincided with the Great Depression. Kreuger's financial chicanery led to comprehensive U.S. securities reform in the early 1930s. getAbstract considers this business biography a rollicking good tale. It holds particular lessons for those looking to make sense of recent financial history: how a brilliant businessman made some innovative - and eerily familiar - promises to greedy, willfully ignorant investors.

    To learn more about this book, check out the following web page:

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  • Posted December 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining Biography - Good Read

    This is an entertaining biography that highlights one of the largest frauds of all time. It is well written and an easy read. It is not that informative, but I would recommend for anyone who is looking to be entertained by this real life story.

    Check out the also Recommendeds: "The Panic of 1907", "When Genius Failed", and "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator."

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    "Everything in life is founded on confidence" Ivar Kreuger

    By Dag Stomberg, St. Andrews, Scotland

    Sweden has given many interesting personalities. Ivar Kreuger has been notorious, widely and unfavourably known over many decades.

    Now, a book has been written by Frank Partnoy that is definitive in its scope and very readable, expressing a clarity of the facts with an
    intuitive understanding of this extraordinary story of a man.

    Kreuger was seen as a business titan of the period from 1922 to 1932.

    This book is of a time all too familiar now!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted January 16, 2010

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    Posted September 2, 2009

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