Belly Up; The Spoils of Bankruptcy.
NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW
Title: Belly Up; The Spoils of Bankruptcy Walter Stewart.;
McClelland & Stewart.; ISBN: 0-7710-8304-1Hardcover,
279 pages, $29.99
Reviewer:A.T.Connellan, "Stewart's explanation of the
anatomy of a bankruptcy and its effects will have readers
shaking their heads in wonder while hanging on tight to
their wallets, as their blood pressure rises."
Belly Up; A Tale Of Corporate Cunning
He's back! Those who enjoyed the journalistic skills
displayed in "The Golden Fleece" and "Too Big To
Fail" will relish his return. Once again employing a delightfully
nasty twist of phrase, Walter Stewart skewers the business
of bankruptcy for profit.
There was a time when bankruptcy could bring a level of
shame from which few could recover. Now it is a handy
refuge from responsibility, where cheaters ever prosper,
and live to shear the sheep another day.
As America goes can Canada be far behind? Stewart sounds
the warning that we must not follow our neighbors to the south,
as just one bankruptcy of major US proportions could have
disastrous consequences for the government of Canada.
He builds his case, well supported by appendix and detailed
notes, with a cogent examination of the evolution of bankruptcy,
the law in the United States and the pattern of its effect on our
country. The tale is well researched, and is incisively told as the
common threads of "...cupidity, stupidity, and larceny..." appear
repeatedly in accounts of failure.
His, and ours, penchant for black humor is tickled by the story of
Eastern Air Lines who during a bankruptcy recovery attempt offered
frequent-flyer points to funeral directors who used Eastern to transport
bodies prompting the suggestion for a new motto: "People are dying
to fly Eastern."
One of the more interesting examples of how mega corporations
use bankruptcy as a financial tool is Lee Iacocca's 1978 masterful
wielding of just the threat of bankruptcy to bamboozle a cadre of
american unions, and suppliers into millions of dollars in
concessions, 452 banks into accepting 30 cents on the dollar on
$4.75 billion in loans, while at the same time conning the American
Congress into $1.5 billion in loan guarantees. Now that's chutzpah!
As Belly Up was going to press the latest chapter in this adventure
was being played out in the media as leveraged buy-out ferret Kirk
Kirkorian was accompanied in his quest to purchase the now
cash-rich Chrysler by non other than the retired Iacocca.
Stewart's explanation of the anatomy of a bankruptcy and its effects
on "the little guy" will have readers shaking their heads in wonder
while hanging on tight to their wallets, as their blood pressure rises.
In a bankruptcy, it is the individual investor, small pension funds and
suppliers who suffer, often-times aided by judges and courts who,
while they can't be bought, are occasionally available for short-term
Belly Up is particularly apropos in light of Dow Corning's imminent
escape into the shelter of bankruptcy to avoid responsibility for the
Dalkon Shield disaster.
Walter Stewart's final point is that Canada's Bankruptcy and
Insolvency Act is to be examined for revision beginning in the fall of
1995. The author's warning to Canadians deserves close attention.
As always Walter's worth the read, and the money.
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