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09/30/2010

Book Review: Overhaul


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Overhaul by Steven RattnerWhen Steven Rattner led Team Auto—the taskforce charged with saving General Motors and Chrysler—he brought to the table his restructuring and private equity experience from his prior jobs as deputy chair at Lazard Freres and managing principal of Quadrangle Group. But, more importantly for the readers of his book, Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto IndustryRattner has also retained the writing skills from his early days as a New York Times journalist. The result is a graphic account, almost hour-by-hour record of the largest industrial restructuring ever. This book can serve as a lesson for financial professionals interested in this type of financing, and a cautionary tale about the ever-increasing role of government.

At the outset, the auto bailout was a stepchild to the bank bailouts. But the political impact of the auto industry, and its historical place in the nation’s economic history, brought it to priority attention status. The size of the auto-supplier network and the related credit companies added to the urgency. At the end, many members of Congress had local auto dealers they deemed of national importance.

Overhaul gives the reader the feeling of being there for all the ups and downs that were part of the restructuring. Congress was filled with members whose main contribution was public posturing. The media poured out reports that had to be dealt with. The auto union turned out to be highly professional, retaining Lazard Freres as its advisor. One of the lessons from this experience was the importance of the people equation, as well as all the number crunching and computer models to which Wall Street is addicted. 

The reader will wonder why very successful financial professionals take on high-profile government assignments. Character assasination is part of the Washington game. Rattner’s personal finances report was made public. Fortunately for the country, high-level financiers like Steven Rattner step foward when asked, and in this case, wrote a fascinating book.

–Bill Hayes

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