Cover image for The deal maker : how William C. Durant made General Motors
The deal maker : how William C. Durant made General Motors
Madsen, Axel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Wiley, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 310 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD9710.U52 D855 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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William C. Durant built General Motors and contributed significantly to the growth of the world-wide automotive industry. This book presents the story of Durant's life and career. From a position of bringing together 25 firms under the GM banner in 1910, Durant subsequently lost his fortune on the Stock Market and died a poor man.

Author Notes

Axel Madsen has written fourteen biographies, including Chanel: A Woman of Her Own, Gloria and Joe, Cousteau, and Stanwyck: A Biography.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

William Durant became a millionaire by building horse-drawn carriages in Flint, Michigan, at the turn of the century. In 1904 he bought Buick, a fledgling automobile company, and this only whetted his appetite for more. Before the end of the decade, he had amassed 25 companies that he would turn into General Motors. Regularly overextending himself and speculating imprudently, Durant lost and regained control of GM several times. By the 1930s he was broke, and World War II saw him running a Flint bowling alley. In 1942 he had a stroke, and he was forced to live on handouts from the likes of Alfred Sloan and Walter Chrysler until he died in 1947. The cautionary story of Durant's life has already been told well by Lawrence Gustin in Billy Durant (1973) and Bernard Weisberger in The Dream Maker (1979). Although no new information has been uncovered, Madsen weighs in with his version, and libraries without one of the two earlier accounts should consider adding Madsen's. --David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the early 1900s, entrepreneurs by the hundreds were looking for ways to build the best horseless carriage that would lead to a pot of gold. What set Durant apart from other would-be car czars was that, long before others caught on, he understood that the business was headed toward consolidation, and that to survive he would need access to big money. Madsen, a veteran biographer of Hollywood types (Stanwyck; Billy Wilder; etc.), relies on a few interviews and a lot of secondary sources to present a rather cursory but well executed glimpse of one of the giants of the automobile industry. After he secured the necessary capitalization, General Motors was formed in 1908, and Durant went on a buying spree that saw him add some 25 companies to GM by 1910. But a recession drove the company's bankers to demote Durant to a vice-president, a move that in the end set the stage for Durant's most satisfying personal triumph. Working through a new company he formed, Chevrolet, as well as with allies, Durant was able to win control of GM from the bankers in an unexpected coup. But the growing complexity of the car market made Durant's style of one-man rule outdated. Even before his failure to adopt modern management techniques could break him, he lost everything in the crash of 1929. While it doesn't shed any new light on the history of the automotive industry, Madsen's workmanlike narrative tells a well-structured story of innovation, financial derring-do and hubris. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

The Man
Rebecca's Boy
Testing the Waters
D & D. Madison Square Garden
David Buick
Private Lives
The Selden Cartel
Affair of the Heart
Checkered Flags
Thinking Big
Darwinian Lessons
A "New Baby"
Back in the Saddle
A Different Animal
Du Pont
Into the Roaring Twenties
November Storm
"Forget Mistakes"
Feeding Frenzy
Stock Pools
Bubble Economy
A Lion in Winter
Notes on Sources