John Brooks


American Writer, Author of bestselling book "Business Adventures", Contributor to New Yorker Magazine

Author Quotes

A call is an option to buy a stated amount of a certain stock at a fixed price?generally near the current market price?at any time during a stated period. Calls on most listed stocks are always on sale by dealers who specialize in them. The purchaser pays a generally rather moderate sum for his option; if the stock then goes up during the stated period, the rise can easily be converted into almost pure profit for him, while if the stock stays put or goes down, he simply tears up his call the way a horseplayer tears up a losing ticket, and loses nothing but the cost of the call. Therefore calls provide the cheapest possible way of gambling on the stock market, and the most convenient way of converting inside information into cash.

In no time at all, Foote, Cone & Belding had eighteen thousand names in hand, including Zoom, Zip, Benson, Henry, and Drof (if in doubt, spell it backward).

Saunders wound up his statement by laying down his terms: the Stock Exchange?s deadline extension notwithstanding, he would expect settlement in full on all short stock by 3 P.M. the next day?Thursday?at $150 a share; thereafter his price would be $250.

To set high goals, to have almost unattainable aspirations, to imbue people with the belief that they can be achieved?these are as important as the balance sheet, perhaps more

A considerable percentage of these respondents [to a question about their ability to mix cocktails] are in the somewhat category on ability to mix cocktails.? Evidently, they do not have much confidence in their cocktail-mixing

In the stock market, however, as de la Vega points out, the news [as such] is often of little value; in the short run, the mood of the investors is what counts.

Thanks to time differentials and good telephone service, the world money market, unlike stock exchanges, race tracks, and gambling casinos, practically never closes. London opens an hour after the Continent (or did until February 1968, when Britain adopted Continental time), New York five (now six) hours after that, San Francisco three hours after that, and then Tokyo gets under way about the time San Francisco closes. Only a need for sleep or a lack of money need halt the operations of a really hopelessly addicted plunger anywhere.

Various magazine articles have predicted nothing less than the disappearance of the book as it now exists, and pictured the library of the future as a sort of monster computer capable of storing and retrieving the contents of books electronically and xerographically.

A luncheon guest at the Bank of France is generally told apologetically, In the tradition of the bank, we serve only simple fare, but what follows is a repast during which the constant discussion of vintages makes any discussion of banking awkward, if not impossible, and at which the tradition of simplicity is honored, apparently, by the serving of only one wine before the cognac.

In truth, an important issue was at stake, and pitfalls awaited the judge who heard the case, no matter which way he decided. On one side was the danger that discoveries made in the course of corporate research might become unprotectable?a situation that would eventually lead to the drying up of private research funds. On the other side was the danger that thousands of scientists might, through their very ability and ingenuity, find themselves permanently locked in a deplorable, and possibly unconstitutional, kind of intellectual servitude?they would be barred from changing jobs because they knew too much.

The button waiting to be pushed, the whir of action, the neat reproduction dropping into the tray?all this adds up to a heady experience, and the neophyte operator of a copier feels an impulse to copy all the papers in his pockets. And once one has used a copier, one tends to be hooked.

We may see another speculative buildup followed by another crash, and so on until God makes people less greedy.

Afterward, Hayes settled down in an armchair to read for a while. In banking circles, he is thought of as a scholarly, intellectual type, and, indeed, he is scholarly and intellectual in comparison with most bankers; even so, his extra-banking reading tends to be not constant and all-embracing, as his wife?s is, but sporadic, capricious, and intensive?everything about Napoleon for a while, perhaps, then a dry period, then a binge on, say, the Civil War. Just then, he was concentrating on the island of Corfu, where he and Mrs. Hayes were planning to spend some time. But before he had got very far into his latest Corfu book he was called to the telephone. The call was from the bank. There were new developments, which Coombs thought President Hayes ought to be kept abreast of.

January 18, 1953: I am now definitely committed [to Minerals & Chemicals] for not less than three more years ? and morally committed to see the thing through. While I can?t conceive that this business will ever seem enough, an end of itself, to make up a satisfactory life, yet the busy-ness, the activity, the crises, the gambles, the management problems I must face, the judgment about people, all combine to make something far from dull.

The cartoonist Jules Feiffer, contemplating the communication problem in a nonindustrial context, has said, ?Actually, the breakdown is between the person and himself. If you?re not able to communicate successfully between yourself and yourself, how are you supposed to make it with the strangers outside?? Suppose, purely as a hypothesis, that the owner of a company who orders his subordinates to obey the antitrust laws has such poor communication with himself that he does not really know whether he wants the order to be complied with or not. If his order is disobeyed, the resulting price-fixing may benefit his company?s coffers; if it is obeyed, then he has done the right thing. In the first instance, he is not personally implicated in any wrongdoing, while in the second he is positively involved in right doing. What, after all, can he lose? It is perhaps reasonable to suppose that such an executive might communicate his uncertainty more forcefully than his order. Possibly yet another foundation grantee should have a look at the reverse of communication failure, where he might discover that messages the sender does not even realize he is sending sometimes turn out to have got across only too effectively.

Where perspicacity is weakened?

Any board-room sitter with a taste for Wall Street lore has heard of the retort that J. P. Morgan the Elder is supposed to have made to a na‹ve acquaintance who had ventured to ask the great man what the market was going to do. It will fluctuate, replied Morgan dryly.

Joseph de la Vega said, ?The expectation of an event creates a much deeper impression ? than the event itself.?

The danger in ingenious hardware is that it distracts attention from education. What good is a wonderful machine if you don?t know what to put on it?

Whether the nostalgia of the Edsel boys for the Edsel runs to the humorous or to the tragic, it is a thought-provoking phenomenon. Maybe it means merely that they miss the limelight they first basked in and later squirmed in, or maybe it means that a time has come when?as in Elizabethan drama but seldom before in American business?failure can have a certain grandeur that success never knows.

Before 1900, very few new income taxes appear to have been enacted anywhere without the stimulus of a war.

London gold dealers, in describing the day?s action [during the 1968 gold crisis], used the un-British words stampede, catastrophe, and nightmare.

The Edsel was a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. It was also a prime example of the limitations of market research, with its ?depth interviews? and ?motivational? mumbo-jumbo.

While I can?t conceive that this business will ever seem enough, an end of itself, to make up a satisfactory life, yet the busy-ness, the activity, the crises, the gambles, the management problems I must face, the judgment about people, all combine to make something far from dull.

But to enact an unsatisfactory law and then try to compensate for its shortcomings by good administration is, clearly, an absurd procedure.

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American Writer, Author of bestselling book "Business Adventures", Contributor to New Yorker Magazine