"Autopsy of a Merger" by William M. Owen

Brian Gongol

It would be daft to assume that there's a large audience for books about mergers and acquisitions. But for that select audience, "Autopsy of a Merger" tells the story of one of the largest: The purchase of TransUnion by the Marmon Group at the start of the 1980s. To make a very long story short, Jay Pritzker was a phenomenally sharp dealmaker. When offered a chance at a very profitable company (TransUnion), he looked quickly, offered quickly, and demanded a quick answer. He landed the deal (at well above the company's stock-market price, but well below its intrinsic value), but not without ruffling lots of feathers among slower-moving rivals and within the corporate office. Eventually, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the deal was so good for Pritzker that the TransUnion board of directors owed the shareholders a rebate to make up the difference between the sale price and the real value of the company. Nobody will go broke studying Jay Pritzker's decision-making skills and this, one of his very best deals. Author William M. Owen captures the fine details (including the financial ones) without missing the abundant human interest and impact, scoring exceptional marks for telling a business story with admirable literary skill.

Verdict: "Autopsy of a Merger" should be canonical reading for value investors and students of economics and finance. The closest thing to a textbook by Jay Pritzker himself.