Thursday, August 20, 2009

Armand Hammer

Just finished Armand Hammer: The Untold Story (An Unauthorized Biography) by Steve Weinberg. I had meant to skim this book but parts of it were so fascinating (the Occidental Petroleum years) that I found it hard to stop. Despite what one may think of him, there is no doubt that he is everything the books say he is: ruthless, charming, generous, vicious, cheap, greedy, vindictive, calculating, energetic, self-effacing, media hungry all at the same time. Given that he was over sixty when he controlled Occidental through force of personality (and a friendly board) his achievements (glorious and inglorious) all point to the truism that one is never too old for anything.

Was also surprised to learn that both he and Bechtel made use of the Export Import Bank to get international deals through. Guess I don't really know what the Exim Bank really does - but both paint a picture that political connections can get you further. Also surprised to learn of Albert Gore Sr.'s connection to Hammer.

This biography is also extensively footnoted and evenly balanced I thought. As the author notes, there is some difficulty in establishing basic facts due to the lack of (and sometimes conflicting) documentation and also some of incidents related cannot be double checked since only few parties were involved. All in all, it was more enjoyable than I had expected.

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