Andrew Allentuck

Friday, November 3, 2000

How To Be A Billionaire: Proven Strategies from the Titans of Wealth
By Martin S. Fridson
John Wiley & Sons, 310 pages

Investment banker Martin Fridson has probed the stories of how old empire builders like oilmen John D. Rockefeller, H.L. Hunt and J. Paul Getty, real estate tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, and computer capitalists Ross Perot and Bill Gates got their billions. He tells their stories engagingly and from them deduces rules of money making that are less than startling. "The more rapidly a company's profits are expected to grow, the more valuable is a dollar of those earnings today."

On the way to the top, capitalists inevitably make enemies, Mr. Fridson says. But they will succeed if they dominate their markets, take monumental risks, have novel approaches to business, consolidate their industries, and thrive on deals. Then come more platitudes, including "hard work is essential" and "rules are breakable." Mr. Fridson plays his rules like a mantra; in fact, it's a tune that goes back to American boy made good Horatio Alger. But forget the lessons on how to succeed by trying really hard. The value of this book lies in the great stories of how many of today's empires were built. That's what makes How To Be A Billionaire a compelling read.