Barbarians At The Gate
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco is a book about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco, written by investigative journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. The book is based upon a series of articles written by the authors for The Wall Street Journal. The book was later made into a made-for-TV movie by HBO, also called Barbarians at the Gate. The book centers on F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco, who planned to buy out the rest of the Nabisco shareholders.
Those opposed to Johnson’s bid for the company, Henry Kravis and his cousin George R. Roberts, were among the pioneers of the leveraged buyout (LBO). Kravis was the first person Johnson talked to about doing the LBO and feels betrayed after learning that Johnson wants to do the deal with another firm, American Express’s former Shearson Lehman Hutton division. Ted Forstmann and his Forstmann Little buyout firm also played a prominent role.
After Kravis and Johnson are unable to reconcile their differences, a bidding war takes place which Johnson will eventually lose. The unfortunate side effect of the augmented buyout price to the shareholders is the creation of a worrying level of debt for the company.
The title of the book comes from a statement by Forstmann, in which he calls Kravis’ money “phoney junk bond crap” and declares him and his cousin as “real people with real money,” also stating that to stop raiders like Kravis: “We need to push the barbarians back from the city gates.”