With the holiday season soon upon us, here's one book about the financial markets you have to read, which is jam-packed with action, emotion and the inside track about the success and ultimate failure of one's of the best known firms on Wall Street.
I've just finished reading Catching Lightening In A Bottle - How Merrill Lynch Revolutionized The Financial World. And what a page-turner it was - up there with classics like Liar's Poker and Too Big To Fail.
Written by Winthrop (Win) H. Smith, the son of a modern co-founder of Merrill Lynch, and a man who himself worked at the firm for 28-years. Smith knew every CEO from Charlie Merrill to John Thain, and this shows through every paragraph, as the book takes us through the development of the firm from the early days under Messrs Merrill and Lynch, through every CEO to John Thain, who had the unfortunate task of accepting that takeover from Bank of America one unforgettable weekend in 2008.
Smith has brought up understanding the concept of 'Mother Merrill', steeped in a history that underlined that Merrill Lynch stood for integrity, ethics and doing the right thing. He held several senior positions in the firm over the years, but resigned abruptly in 2001 following a meeting with then CEO Stan O'Neal, who Smith thought failed to appreciate the history of the firm and was likely to disregard Merrill's principles. He was right, and by the time misfortune befell the firm, Smith had sold all his stock.
This lively history of Merrill Lynch is very much a human tale of tremendous highs, some awful lows - and with a tragic ending. The main characters come alive, their personalities shining through from the pen of a man who knew them well - faults and all.