Make no mistake about it. When I am ready for a beer, I choose a Budweiser. Regular. Not Bud Lite, not Michelob, not Michelob Ultra. I like the “King of Beers.” Regular Budweiser.
So, I am enjoying the former best-seller, Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder (New York: Harper Business, 2012). It is rare, but not without precedent, that we will go back and present a former business best-seller at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas that we have passed over previously from the lists. This one was a best-seller on several top lists. Even today, it remains at #13, #38, and #49 on three different Amazon.com best-selling business lists. I will be discussing this with Randy Mayeux, who also presents at the First Friday Book Synopsis, as to whether we should go back and get this one. It is really worth considering.
The inside cover states that the book is “the engrossing, often scandalous saga of one of the wealthiest, longest-lasting, and most colorful family dynasties in the history of American commerce – a cautionary tale about prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the blessings and dark consequences of success.”
He is a veteran journalist and best-selling author who honed his investigative and narrative skills during 12 years as a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times, where his ground breaking coverage of the entertainment industry produced a long string of exposes. His two-year investigation of payola and other corrupt practices in the record business sparked five federal grand jury investigations across the country, led to the arrest and conviction of a score of organized figures and formed the basis of his first best-selling book, Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia (Harper Collins 1993). Stiffed was named Best Non-Fiction work of 1993 by Entertainment Weekly, which called it “the scariest book of the year…and the funniest.” The two of the principal mob figures depicted in Stiffed–New Jersey crime boss Gaetano “Corky” Vastola and Roulette Records founder Morris Levy–subsequently served as the models for HBO’s Tony Soprano and his music business mentor Herman “Hesh” Rabkin. Since 2000, Knoedelseder has written three other books. In Eddie’s Name (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) chronicles the brutal murder of a Philadelphia teenager that made national headlines when Knoedelseder, as executive producer of the Knight Ridder news program Inquirer News Tonight, pressed the city to make public the content of 911 tapes recorded the night of the killing, which ultimately revealed a complete breakdown of Philadelphia’s emergency response system; I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era (Public Affairs/Perseus) recounts Knoedelseder’s time as cub reporter covering the L.A. comedy club scene when David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman were young and undiscovered. It has been optioned for film by actor Jim Carrey. His next book for Harper Collins, Fins, is about the life and times of Harley Earl, the visionary car designer who helped engineer the phenomenal rise of General Motors.
I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:
The creators of Budweiser and Michelob beers, the Anheuser-Busch company is one of the wealthiest, most colorful and enduring family dynasties in the history of American commerce. In Bitter Brew, critically acclaimed journalist William Knoedelseder tells the riveting, often scandalous saga of the rise and fall of the dysfunctional Busch family—an epic tale of prosperity, profligacy, hubris, and the dark consequences of success that spans three centuries, from the open salvos of the Civil War to the present day.
You can read an excellent review of this book, published in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein by clicking on this link:
Lowenstein is the author of The End of Wall Street and Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist.
The selection of this book for the First Friday Book Synopsis is not automatic. There are other considerations as to whether we will go back and get one like this. I will discuss this more fully with Randy Mayeux. His call has been very reliable, and predictive of long-term success. In one of his previous blog posts, he noted that in 2013, he had presented seven best-sellers that are still on the New York Times best-seller list, while I only had one during the same period. There is no guarantee we will decide to work this one in. Regardless of what we decide to do, and no matter what you drink, this is quite a saga, and worth a careful read.
Maybe you could pop one while reading it! Note – that’s not what I did. I prefer to concentrate on what I am reading, and remember what I read.
I thought it was interesting when Warren Buffett made a major turnaround and chose to invest in a traditional newspaper. On November 30, Berkshire Hathaway, where Buffett is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, purchased the Omaha World-Herald Company, publisher of six daily papers in Nebraska and Iowa. Such a deal is counter to the flow of his investment history, and represents a shift from his position about traditional papers. In 2009, he stated that “we would not buy them at any price.” You can read a summary of this transaction from the Wall Street Journal by clicking here, and view expert analysis in a video by clicking here.
There is something that Warren Buffett knows that Steve Jobs did not. Buffett is one of the richest and most successful investors in business history.
In the Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz recalled what Jobs said about the future of newspapers in his column entitled “Steve Jobs and the Future of Newspapers” (October 9, 2011). Jobs said, “The only problem is that the [Wall Street] Journal is a newspaper and so is printed on newsprint.” Further, he recalled Jobs saying “Whenever I have the time to pick up the printed version of the newspaper (sic), I wish I could do this all the time, but our lives are not like that any more.” Crovitz summarized Jobs’ position by writing “he predicted that in five years there would be no more printed newspapers.”
That conversation was in 2006, so Jobs’ deadline has passed. Sorry – there are still newspapers printed, delivered, purchased, and read in the traditional manner. Since then, many newspapers have disappeared and many others are in financial trouble. Some have pushed their emphasis to online editions, and now charge for access.
One of the great supporters of the traditional newspaper remains Donald Graham, the Chairman of the Washington Post Company, who said in a corporate news column in the Wall Street Journal, published on December 3-4, 2011 (p. B3), that he would neither sell nor spinoff the flagship newspaper or any of his company’s core businesses.
There is no question that reading online content from newspaper sites, such as the Huffington Post, is trendy, popular, and convenient.
To be sure, however, there are enough advertisers and enough subscribers to keep many printed versions going. There are still plenty of people who want to get their paper from the front lawn, get their coffee, get back under the covers, and fold the pages to explore the content. There are still enough people who spend enough time using digital devices who refuse to carry this mode into their treasured leisure time. They want to sit in their easy chair, hold a paper, turn it, and even clip out articles of interest to them. I subscribe to the Dallas Morning News and Wall Street Journal print versions, as well as the Wall Street Journal online edition. The amount of time I spend with the online edition is about 2% compared with the traditional version.
I don’t think that Warren Buffett throws money away. Something hit him to invest money in a paper whose weekday circulation has fallen 24% since 2006. Maybe he wanted a challenge. Maybe it links to his childhood occupation of delivering the Washington Post to homes in weathly neighborhoods. I don’t know. But, I do believe that he knew something about traditional newspapers that Steve Jobs didn’t. And, for me, I will be under the covers reading my paper and sipping my coffee. I’ll be digital during the day soon enough.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon!