Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

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Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street 

John Brooks' book "Business Adventures: Twelve Great Stories from the World of Wall Street" is a collection of 12 tales that examine the triumphs and failures of some of the most illustrious businesses and business figures of the 20th century. 

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite it as a favorite book and a source of wisdom because of its timeless insights and lessons.

The book covers topics such as:
  • The mini-stock market crash of 1962, showed how irrational and unpredictable the market can be, and how some firms survived or collapsed under the pressure.
  • The launch of the Ford Edsel, which was a massive flop due to poor marketing, design, and decision-making, despite being backed by extensive research and hype.
  • The rise of Xerox, which became one of the most successful businesses of the 1960s by developing revolutionary technology and fostering a culture of innovation and social responsibility.
  • The scandal of insider trading at Texas Gulf Sulphur exposed the loopholes and ethical dilemmas of the securities laws and regulations.
  • The struggle of Piggly Wiggly, a pioneering supermarket chain, which fought against the Wall Street speculators who tried to manipulate its stock price and drive it out of business.
  • The failure of the federal income tax withholding system, which was introduced during World War II to increase revenue, caused confusion and resentment among taxpayers and employers.
  • The power and influence of Edith Green, a congresswoman from Oregon, who championed education and women's rights, and challenged the corporate interests and lobbyists in Washington.
  • The innovation and competition in the communications industry, which saw the emergence of new technologies such as satellites, transistors, lasers, and fiber optics, and the challenges they posed to the established players such as AT&T and RCA.
  • The controversy over the pricing of generic drugs raised questions about the fairness and efficiency of the pharmaceutical market and the role of government regulation.
  • The success and decline of Goodrich vs. Latex, two rival companies that produced synthetic rubber, and how their different strategies and cultures affected their performance and profitability.
  • The mystery and allure of gold, which has fascinated humans for centuries, and how its price and demand fluctuate according to various factors such as politics, economics, psychology, and fashion.
  • The creativity and courage of David Ogilvy, one of the most famous advertising men in history, who created some of the most memorable campaigns and slogans for brands such as Rolls-Royce, Schweppes, Dove, and Hathaway.

These tales are not only interesting and instructive but also relevant and applicable in the corporate world of today. They demonstrate to us how to deal with uncertainty, change, competitiveness, crises, innovation, ethics, leadership, and more. 

They also serve as a reminder that business is not just about statistics and figures, but also about people and emotions. As Brooks notes in his introduction, "Business is only part of our society, yet what occurs in business influences all of our lives."


The central theme of "Business Adventures" is the unpredictability of corporations and Wall Street, and how businesses and economies can rise and fall based on people’s behavior, which is often driven by emotions, habits of thinking, and human tendencies.

The book covers 12 critical moments in American industry, including the rise of Xerox and Piggly Wiggly, the Ford Edsel fiasco, and the GE and Texas Gulf Sulphur scandals.

The book views the stock market as unpredictable and irrational. It illustrates this through the three-day stock market crash and recovery of 1962.

The book uses the example of the Ford Edsel to illustrate how not to launch a product.

The book discusses how corporations attempt to protect trade secrets by keeping their employees from going to work for their competitors.

The book covers a landmark insider trading case, highlighting the ethical and legal issues surrounding insider trading.

The book emphasizes that emotions, habits of thinking, and human tendencies can significantly influence business decisions, leading to the rise and fall of businesses.

The book suggests that business events and decisions can have far-reaching impacts on society, shaping the financial world as we know it.

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