The choicest hundred

Lehman Brothers not only was at the heart


Lehman Brothers not only was at the heart of the Jewish New York financial and social circuit, but it also served as a role model after which dozens of firms patterned themselves. At its heart were the family members, who eventually hired outsiders to build a huge firm of partners who continued into the modern era.

The pattern would be emulated by Goldman, by Bear Stearns, even by the great modern, famous, and recently infamous Drexel Burnham, to name only a few.

This book 100 Minds That Made The Market will enable readers to get a snapshot view of the lives of the people who played a significant part in the evolution of America's financial markets over the past couple of centuries.

First let us begin with whom the book does not cover. Many living legends like Warren Buffet and John Templeton or infamous characters like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken are not included. Kenneth Fisher, the author (he is a fund manager, a well-known columnist, and son of legendary investor Philip Fisher) accepts this deficiency. But his defence is: “Most of the people included in this book are harder to learn about.” But going by that yardstick, ample writing is available on both John Maynard Keynes and Benjamin Graham, yet they have been featured here. Essentially, this book includes the hundred people who in Fisher's opinion made significant contributions. That bit of subjectivity in the choice of people has to be accepted.

While the research is in-depth, the portrayals aren't very intimate - perhaps because many of the characters lived in distant times. As Fisher says: “As a student of their lives, I wrote mostly about their reputations and legends, as had been captured in books and articles. It is impossible to know the secrets people chose to keep private - these matters are often never known.”

Rothschild Investment Bank, which conducted the recent auctions for 3G spectrum in India, belongs to the Rothschild family. The book throws light on how this group was founded and grew to dominate European finance for a long time. Write-ups on two illustrious members of this family are included.

Today investors around the world keep a close eye on the gyrations of the Dow Jones index. And when it comes to business news, everyone turns to the Wall Street Journal for informed news and commentary. But few people know about the man who founded these iconic products: Charles Dow. Says Fisher: “If instead of 100, this book were to focus on only a dozen names, Dow would still be one of them.”

While reading the interviews of technical analysts, you must have come across the term “Wave's Principle”. This was made famous by its proponents long after the man who invented it, R. N. Elliott, died. He too is featured here.

Scamsters and fraudsters have always been a part of the financial markets. One such on Wall Street was Chales Ponzi. It is from his surname that the term 'Ponzi Scheme', which is synonymous with investment scams, has been derived.

The book makes for easy reading. Each chapter covers the life of one subject. However, it does come across as opinionated - the mini biographies are laced heavily with the author's opinions. Nonetheless, for any one interested in knowing about the men who shaped the world of investment, finance and the stock market, this is a useful book.



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