Sell Your Business Your Way : Foreword by Michael Lewis

During the leveraged buyout craze of the 1980s a number of corporations—the car rental company Avis comes to mind—made several trips between the public and private sector. It was as if Wall Street had gotten into the business of selling round trip tickets to the stock market. Each time a company changed hands the corporate managers, and their investment bankers, invoked some higher principle. When Avis went private it was to harness the greater efficiency and enthusiasm of managers who were also owners; when Avis went public again it was because the company could not grow, as it deserved to without greater access to capital. On and on it went, in a kind of endless spin cycle. The main consequence of a lot of this activity was to enrich investment bankers who were, in effect, churning entire companies. In some cases the investment bankers were simply colluding with corporate managers; but in many cases they were preying on the insecurities and ignorance of those managers. In either case, a lot of people at the mercy of Wall Street would have been better off if the two processes at the heart of high finance—taking a company public and taking a company private-had been de-mystified.

Now they have been—and by the same former investment banker, Rick Rickertsen. A few years ago Rick wrote an interesting book, called Buyout, which advised corporate managers how to take their public companies private, without undergoing a body cavity search by Wall Street. That book was a paean to the owner-manager. Only when he became an owner could the manager reap the fruits of his labor, cease to be a wage slave and join capitalism’s most exalted ranks, of those who could safely ignore the advice of Wall Street investment bankers. Now Rick has written another interesting book, The Biggest Deal of Your Life, and it instructs people how to do pretty much the opposite thing. But the symmetry is not perfect. Rick has no intention of turning you, the business owner, back into a wage slave. His ambition for his readers has, if anything, grown. In Buyout he showed you how you, too, can fly first class. In The Biggest Deal of Your Life he shows you how to stop flying commercial, and get into your own private jet. In Buyout he sought to put you beyond the greedy grasp of Wall Street investment bankers. Here he helps put you in the position to actually purchase a few Wall Street investment bankers, and do whatever you want with them.

I love Rick’s impulse to make high finance simple and accessible. “Wall Street loves people to think what they do is a mystical Black Box totally incomprehensible to the normal man,” he says. “It enables them to keep their fees up. But this is wrong of course.” Anyone who has built a business should be grateful to his democratizing instincts. He could have charged you millions for the privilege of hiring him to you’re your company. Instead he is asking only the price of a hardcover book.

Michael Lewis is the author of several best-selling books, including The New New Thing and Liar's Poker (#1 New York Times national bestseller in both hardcover and paperback), based in part on his own experience working as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers. Lewis is currently a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, a columnist for Bloomberg, and a visiting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. His freelance writing appears in places including The New Yorker, Slate and Foreign Affairs. Michael Lewis has served as editor and columnist for the British Weekly The Spectator and as senior editor and campaign correspondent of The New Republic. He has filmed and narrated short pieces for ABC-TV's "Nightline" and has hosted a series on presidential politics for National Public Radio. He holds a B.A. from Princeton and an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics. He lives in Berkeley with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their daughter.