Chainsaw: The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-at-Any-Price

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9780066619811: Chainsaw: The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-at-Any-Price

Before there was Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling at Enron, before Bernie Ebbers at WorldCom, or Dennis Kozlowski at Tyco, there was Al Dunlap -- the notorious business executive whose actions foreshadowed a ruinous period in business when illusion seemed to matter more than reality.

Al Dunlap -- a.k.a. "Chainsaw Al" -- was ruthless in downsizing corporations for short-term shareholder profit. While reviled on Main Street, Dunlap was loved on Wall Street for bringing huge returns to investors and shareholders ... until the dark side of his actions began to emerge. With a new afterword by the author -- Business Week writer John A. Byrne -- Chainsaw dramatically documents the rise and fall of Dunlap, the havoc he wreaked on companies and people's lives, and how he came to power in the first place.

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Review:

Al Dunlap was so ruthless in downsizing corporations for short-term shareholder profit that he earned nicknames such as "Chainsaw Al" and "Rambo in Pinstripes." Wall Street loved Dunlap at Scott Paper, where he laid off thousands, but then hated him at Sunbeam, where he himself was finally fired. Chainsaw, by Business Week writer John A. Byrne, dramatically documents the rise and fall of Dunlap, the havoc he wreaked on companies and people's lives, and how he came to power in the first place.

"Chainsaw Al was a creation of the Street and its ceaseless lust for profit at any cost. He came of age when the market routinely rewarded layoffs with lofty stock prices. The more people he tossed out in the street, the higher stock values went," writes Byrne, who cites "cutthroat investors" such as Michael Price and Ronald Perelman for helping Dunlap's rise. Superbly written and researched, the book vividly describes characters and scenes, and reveals the fictions that Dunlap told about himself. How cold was Chainsaw Al? Byrne writes that Dunlap never even attended the funerals for his mother and father. Byrne also tells the story of the questionable accounting and business practices that ultimately brought down Sunbeam and Dunlap, and the investigations that led to a restatement of the company's finances. Dunlap, unhappy about Byrne's reporting, once said of the Business Week writer, "If he were on fire, I wouldn't piss on him." It's a quote that Byrne uses to kick off his last chapter. Chainsaw is a compelling read for those interested in the inner workings of Wall Street and business, or just a well-told story. --Dan Ring

About the Author:

John A. Byrne is the editor in chief of Fast Company. Formerly a senior writer for Business Week, he is the author of several other books, including Odyssey (coauthored with John Sculley), The Whiz Kids, and Informed Consent. Most recently, Byrne was Jack Welch's collaborator on Jack: Straight from the Gut.

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