The Price of Experience: Money, Power, Image, and Murder in Los Angeles

Overview

When it first came to the public's attention in the fall of 1986, the story of the Billionaire Boys Club and its leader, Joe Hunt, a young man labeled by his prosecutor a "yuppie Charles Manson," was splashed across headlines and TV screens throughout the nation. The story's surface of rich kids, flagrant excess, and multiple murders fascinated the American public, but deeper truths lay buried beneath the intricate details of a saga so complex that neither its scope nor its implications could be clearly discerned...
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Overview

When it first came to the public's attention in the fall of 1986, the story of the Billionaire Boys Club and its leader, Joe Hunt, a young man labeled by his prosecutor a "yuppie Charles Manson," was splashed across headlines and TV screens throughout the nation. The story's surface of rich kids, flagrant excess, and multiple murders fascinated the American public, but deeper truths lay buried beneath the intricate details of a saga so complex that neither its scope nor its implications could be clearly discerned - that is until now. Eight years in the making, The Price of Experience finally reveals, in an utterly gripping narrative, the whole story.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As much a cultural history of L.A. in the 1980s as a true-crime account, freelance journalist Sullivan's study of the so-called Billionaire Boys Club and its sociopathic leader, Joe Hunt, offers a remarkable array of elaborate deceptions and double crosses, all bound together in a gripping narrative. Hunt was a magnetic figure whose unruffled assurance and flamboyant techniques as a young commodities trader drew to him a circle of loyal disciples and eager investors. Forming a corporation, the BBC, with a group of extremely well-connected but shiftless men, Hunt gathered millions in investment capital, money that he embezzled and lost in reckless trading while deceiving his investors. As conspicuous consumption and poor business decisions further unraveled the BBC, Hunt resorted to increasingly violent criminal tactics. Eventually, pursued by law enforcement agencies as a suspect in cases ranging from murder to kidnapping to violating SEC codes, Hunt was convicted of murder in 1987. He initiated an appeal process that continues to this day. Sullivan does a superlative job of bringing together an elaborate chain of events, offering considerable insight not just into Hunt but into an entire cast of disturbed and disturbing characters. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This is an epic account of the Billionaire Boys Club case, in which Joe Hunt organized a cadre of former classmates and other gifted young men for the purpose of turning large profits in financial markets. Hunt was charisma incarnate, capable of selling his schemes to nave investors and his ideas (in the form of his amoral Paradox philosophy) to ingenuous followers. He played fast and loose with other people's money, lost much of it, turned to increasingly more desperate measures, got deeper in debt, and ultimately participated in at least two murders in an effort to save himself. This chronicle follows Hunt's story from his days at the prestigious Harvard School in California to his meteoric rise in investment circles and in Los Angeles high society. Sullivan's book tracks Hunt's history with Dreiserian specificity, piling up the details to present a picture of startling clarity and brilliance. This is a true-crime book that truly transcends the genre and is essential for all general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/95.]-Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Kirkus Reviews
This exceptionally captivating narrative, tracing the glittering rise and bloody fall of the Billionaire Boys Club, lives up to its subtitle's lofty, lurid promise.

Joe Gamsky, a latter-day Jay Gatsby, grew up poor but smart enough to win a scholarship to L.A.'s posh Harvard School. Joe became friendly with schoolmate Dean Karny, and the two remained close after Joe (who changed his last name to Hunt) began a stint as a trader in Chicago. After losing millions on speculative trades and being expelled from the Mercantile Exchange, he rebounded, starting a new venture in Los Angeles, the Billionaire Boys Club, with Karny. The two attracted their richest friends from the Harvard School, and soon money was pouring into the BBC coffers for the stated purposes of technological research and investment. Sullivan (whose 1986 Esquire article on Hunt was the origin of this book) expertly details the grand ambitions of the BBC, which seemed achievable for a time. But the boys were greedy, as they candidly admitted to Sullivan; and Hunt's ability to manipulate their parents, along with his Ponzi and pyramid schemes, relied on a constant influx of cash. When Hunt matched wits with Ron Levin, a far superior con artist, the BBC was doomed. Karny provides fascinating details about the BBC's slide into a total amorality, rooted in avarice and almost cultlike devotion to the emotionally contained but charismatic Hunt. The result was the murder of Levin and two others. This archetypal L.A. story, set against the waning '80s, takes a further twist when Karny enters the Witness Protection Program, sending Hunt and other BBC members to jail for life. But Hunt has already gained what amounts to an acquittal on one murder charge, and he is fighting for a new trial on his outstanding convictions.

Thoroughly researched and compulsively readable, an essential entry in the true-crime canon.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780737263695
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 705

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