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IN BRIEF

Non Fiction

March 15, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

TOMBSTONES: A Lawyer's Tales From the Takeover Decades by Lawrence Lederman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $24; 348 pp . ). A New York weekly recently reported that Wachtell Lipton, the premier takeover-defense law firm, was distressed to learn that partner Lawrence Lederman planned to publish a memoir of the major business deals he helped consummate in the 1970s and 1980s--so distressed, in fact, that Lederman quit the firm. Wachtell Lipton would argue publicly, no doubt, that clients might consider disloyal any discussion of past deals, but I suspect its displeasure with "Tombstones" is more basic: the fact that Lederman writes about two partners who pleaded guilty to insider trading, and the fact that he replays in great detail the firm's takeover strategies. For the reader, of course, those aspects of the book are a major attraction, for Lederman's insights into the mechanics of deal-making and the corporate lawyer mind-set, can't be matched by even the best reporters. "Tombstones" is a well-written, often fascinating, only occasionally self-serving account of corporate deal-making, and although it proceeds on a simple, deal-by-deal basis, the evolution in the nature of those deals--from IBM's fairly straightforward (and ultimately aborted) purchase of a small high-tech firm to the complex and ill-fated (because it was bought by Robert Maxwell) auction for Macmillan--turns the book into an instructive nuts-and-bolts primer to the go-go years.

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