This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
It was only by chance that I came across Predators’ Ball.
Trust the law school library to not have such a great and relevant book.
A friend had bought it. After he finished it, I saw it lying on the floor in his hostel room. I picked it up and flipped through. Something caught my eye in there. I would like to think I must have had taken my friends permission to read it, but more likely I walked out of his room with my eyes stuck between those pages.
I started reading it. It was an enjoyable read, but more importantly it gave me an exposure to a brand new world I didn’t know existed.
It was the world of corporate raiders, hostile takeovers, leverage buyouts, investment banks, people who were shaking up the entire economy and changing the entire financial world. Predator’s Ball is a real story of Wall Street investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert and Mike Milken, who changed corporate finance in USA and perhaps the whole world forever.
After reading this book, a whole new world opened up for me. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to learn more.
Next was Barbarians at the Gate. Interestingly, this was also a book that was connected to the junk bond king Mike Milken. This was a story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, a massive old school american company.
This book sparked off my curiosity about hostile takeovers.
I began to research if there was every any hostile takeovers in India.
It turned out that our own Reliance, led by Dhirubhai Ambani, attempted to take over L&T, a blue chip listed company. I am not sure, but given that the events in the USA and India were happening a few years apart, it could be that Dhirubhai was inspired by the goras.
On enquiry, I found out about a book called The Polyester Prince. The content of this book was so sensitive that it was banned in India. Nonetheless, it is not impossible to find pdf copies on the internet. I found one, and read it, let’s say, when I was abroad.
This was another book that filled my mind with wonder. Dhirubhai Ambani is probably single handedly responsible for forcing SEBI to come up with more than half of its regulations today. If India had its Mike Milken (I say it appreciatively, only with a lot of admiration), it was definitely Dhirubhai.
And a book is a must read for every would be corporate lawyer or securities lawyer.
Another book I want to talk about is King of Capital. If the previous books talked more about raising capital from the public, and this book is about Private Equity. You will learn more about private equity from this book than you can learn by practicing as a private equity lawyer for a year or two.
It is fascinating to say the least to learn about the journey of Blackstone to become the world’s biggest private equity firm in 2007, when it emerged as a whole or part owner of 55 companies that together employed over half a million people.
The book recounts Blackstone’s evolution through fits and starts, disastrous early investments and internal clashes. It not only reveals the personalities behind the firm but also the larger forces at work in the corporate and financial worlds that transformed private equity from a handful of upstart investment boutiques in the 1970s and 1980s into a mainstay of the financial world, backed by billions from public pension funds and other institutional investors.
Finally, you must read Zero to One. It is written by Peter Thiel, a billionaire credited with creating two unicorn companies of our era: PayPal and Palantir. If you don’t know what is Palantir – it’s a company that works with governments to strengthen surveillance. It is often credited with finding out where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.
Thiel writes about how new age businesses are built, how zero to one is achieved. It is a business bible of the new digital economy, explains capitalism better than anything I read, and a corporate lawyer or aspirant who is yet to read it is yet not ready to face the brave new world.
So when I appeared for my law firm interviews, I knew stuff that thoroughly impressed my interviewing partners. I could say very wise things in my interviews that they could hardly expect me to think up, but fortunately I was standing on shoulders of giants.
So these 5 books are going to change your life. Buy a copy each and read them. They will unleash the hunger to learn more.
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