The New Imperialists

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Up close and personal with the New Economy’s business tycoons

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, AOL-Time Warner’s Steve Case, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Cisco’s John Chambers–they’re business titans of the 21st century. We know their names well enough, but what do we really know about these men beyond the multitudes of short-hand mythologies and soundbites that currently exist. How were they able to muster the savvy and confidence to create such empires of wealth and power? What do the paths they took say about the economic realm they came to conquer? Were they true visionaries or creations of a unique moment in time? Drawing from his Pulitzer Prize-nominated series of articles in The Washington Post, Mark Leibovich provides particularly personal and in-depth profiles on these larger-than-life moguls. Presenting five whirlwind tours through five gale-force lives, this extraordinary book traces the formative events and influences in each man’s early life to explain how they came to dominate in this bizarre, revolutionary world. In addition to unprecedented access to each man himself (a privilege afforded very few reporters), Leibovich interviewed over 400 friends, childhood mentors, family members, former bosses, classmates, colleagues, and rivals who have known these uniquely driven souls at various stages of their lives.

Exclusive facts and details: • Gates spoke of breaking into tears during a Microsoft board meeting at the height of the anti-trust trial • Ellison showed the author the $100 million Japanese-style compound he’s building in Silicon Valley (no journalist had ever seen it) • A friend of Case described him boasting about his long-sought takeover of Time-Warner • Cisco Chairman John Morgridge complained that Chambers was spending too much time hobnobbing with politicians and not enough time tending to his struggling company

Topics rarely--if ever--discussed: • Gates speaking about the pain of losing his childhood best friend • Ellison reflecting on the recurring scorn he received from his father • Bezos talking about never knowing his natural father • Chambers explaining the pain of his childhood dyslexia • Case speaking about his rivalry with his AOL co-founder

After it’s all broken down, from the dazzle of the new technology to the titillation of overnight wealth and cautionary tales of subsequent loss, the New Economy can be distilled to these five cults of personality. Sure to be the season’s most compulsive read, this comprehensive work gives readers the most definitive look ever into the lives of the New Economy’s signature pioneers.

Praise

"Leibovich, a technology reporter for the Washington Post, sets out to explain the phenomenal success of five of technology's brightest luminaries AOL Time Warner's Steve Case, Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, Cisco's John Chambers, Oracle's Larry Ellison and, naturally, Microsoft's Bill Gates. Leibovich assumes, rightly, that these men's ruthless drive must stem from childhood, and by the time readers finish the fifth profile, it's a predictable pattern: Some adolescent trauma (dyslexia, adoption) is followed by an inexorable rise through the high tech ranks. All but one of the five grew up affluent, and Ellison's middle-class urban upbringing only seems deprived compared with the suburban private schools and six-figure start-up money the other four families provided. Some of the most telling characterizations are in the margins: here is perhaps the best insight into the symbiotic relationship between Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; and then there's the sad story of Monte Davidoff, a Microsoft start-up employee who was left behind, a tale known within geek circles but not by the general public. Leibovich does not provide the close first-person access to principals that Michael Lewis did for Jim Clark for The New New Thing, and he acknowledges that corporate flaks were on hand for interviews and copied on e-mails. Yet all five profiles essentially updated versions of Leibovich's work for the Post are rife with juicy anecdotes that should please technophiles. And the time seems ripe for highlighting the human frailties of marquee high tech CEOs, who have lost their Midas touch reputation with investors. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)Forecast: Hardcore techies might be disappointed with the choice of these five men to represent the digital age, since three of them are actually salesmen and marketers. But this mix should please readers interested in business, technology and corporate culture."  —Publishers Weekly

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