Frantz, Douglas 1949-
FRANTZ, Douglas 1949-
PERSONAL: Born September 29, 1949, in North Manchester, IN; son of Donald E. (a builder) and Jo Joyce (a golfer; maiden name, Urschel) Frantz; married Catherine Ann Collins (a writer), October 15, 1983; children: Elizabeth, Nicholas, Rebecca. Education: DePauw University, B.A., 1971; Columbia University, M.S., 1975.
CAREER: Albuquerque Tribune, Albuquerque, NM, city editor, 1975–78; Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, reporter, 1978–87; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, reporter, beginning 1987; New York Times, New York, NY, former bureau chief in Istanbul, Turkey, currently investigations editor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Sigma Delta Chi Award, 1985, for financial reporting; Associated Press-Illinois Award, 1986, and Raymond Clapper Award, 1987, both for investigative reporting; Business Week named Levine & Co. one of the best books of 1987.
Levine & Co.: The Story of Wall Street's Insider Trading Scandal, Holt (New York, NY), 1987.
(With wife, Catherine Collins) Selling Out: How We Are Letting Japan Buy Our Land, Our Industries, Our Financial Institutions, and Our Future, Contemporary Books (Chicago, IL), 1989.
From the Ground Up: The Business of Building in the Age of Money, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.
(With James Ring Adams) A Full Service Bank, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Catherine Collins) Teachers: Talking Out of School, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
(With David McKean) Friends in High Places: The Rise and Fall of Clark Clifford, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.
(With Catherine Collins) Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney's Brave New Town, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Douglas Frantz is an award-winning reporter who has also written and cowritten a number of revealing nonfiction books about the unscrupulous behavior of businesspeople and politicians, as well as on other controversial subjects. His first book, Levine & Co.: The Story of Wall Street's Insider Trading Scandal, concerns investor Dennis Levine, who entered Wall Street with a modest investment of forty thousand dollars. His goal was to become rich as quickly as possible, regardless of the means employed. Within five years his fortune, stored in a Swiss bank located in the Bahamas, had grown to twelve million dollars. In 1986 Levine was arrested and pleaded guilty to the felony of insider trading. He was sentenced to spend two years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Levine & Co. traces the felon's career from Baruch College in New York where, by his own admission, Levine learned the philosophy of greed through the prestigious investment houses of Smith Barney, Harris Upham and Company, Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb, Inc., and Drexel Burnham Lambert, Inc. Levine's phenomenal success was based largely on illegal inside tips from lawyers and bankers who informed him of potential corporate takeovers in time to profit from them. The investor's relationships with these informants and with the foreign bankers who accepted his money are the focus of Frantz's book. The author emphasizes that most of the participants in Wall Street's insider trading scandal were by no means innocent victims of Levine's trading scheme. They were knowledgeable bankers who were willing to turn a blind eye to his illegal activities and reap their share of the profits. The scheme was only uncovered, related Bernie Shellum in the Detroit Free Press, "because of a seemingly rare expression of ethical concern; an anonymous note from someone in Caracas to Merrill Lynch's New York headquarters." Patricia O'Toole of the New York Times Book Review found Levine & Co. to be "a taut and admirably clear reconstruction of one of the biggest scandals in Wall Street history." She recommended the book as "a lucid and compelling introduction to the arcane world of corporate finance." Frantz once told CA: "I started work on Levine & Co. for a selfish reason: After nearly fifteen years on newspapers, mostly as an investigative reporter, I thought this was the most compelling story I had ever come across. Greed, ambition, and betrayal were set on Wall Street, Park Avenue, and Nassau. There were bags stuffed with cash, code names, and a red Ferrari. The scandal also symbolized the 1980's pursuit of money by a new generation. As a participant in the protest movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, I had difficulty understanding the attitude of these young people. And along the way I discovered that I was writing a cautionary tale. The story of Dennis Levine is not only about shattered lives and stolen millions. It is a warning that Wall Street is out of control, its culture nourishing a dozen Dennis Levines and Ivan Boeskys whose only crime seems to be that they got caught. Without abandoning my role as a fact-gatherer and storyteller and donning a preacher's robe, I think the book conveys this message in terms that anyone can understand."
In another book about a powerful man's self-destruction, Friends in High Places: The Rise and Fall of Clark Clifford, Frantz and his wife, Catherine Collins, discuss the powerful lobbyist and politician of the title. Clifford was a Washington, DC, insider for five decades, spending much of that time turning lobbying into an art form, as well as serving briefly as a White House aide under President Harry Truman and as secretary of defense under President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. His fall came in the early 1990s, however, when he ignored his own advice and became involved in a complex money manipulation scandal involving the Pakistan-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The authors interviewed over one hundred people, including Clifford, to create a book that is packed with details of Clifford's career. The result is "a compelling political biography," according to Charles W. Bailey in the Washington Monthly. Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor recommended Friends in High Places as "even handed and well written."
Frantz has written other books about business dealings, as well, such as Selling Out: How We Are Letting Japan Buy Our Land, Our Industries, Our Financial Institutions, and Our Future, which he wrote with his wife, and From the Ground Up: The Business of Building in the Age of Money, but in 1999 he collaborated with his wife again to complete a book of a different sort. Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney's Brave New Town is about how the Walt Disney company created the experimental planned community of Celebration. The idea behind this venture was to build a town from scratch that encouraged residents to interact with one another and enjoy a lifestyle reminiscent of the somewhat mythical, halcyon days of nineteenth-century America, but with all the modern conveniences. Frantz and his wife actually purchased one of the homes in Celebration, living there for several years and having their children attend its schools. During this time, they experienced or witnessed a number of problems, including homes that were sometimes so poorly constructed they had to be torn down and rebuilt, a lack of ethnic diversity, and a teaching philosophy at the schools that became a polarizing issue with many of the parents there. "While the authors are not Disneyphiles," commented Margie DeWeese-Boyd in Utopian Studies, "they are often too willing to do what they recognize many of the Celebration's residents did—trust Disney. Ultimately, Frantz and Collins moved to Celebration to critique it. It's very possible that they were co-opted in the process." Nevertheless, Library Journal contributor Kevin Whalen called Celebration, U.S.A. an "engaging sociological examination," while a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that it is an "evenhanded and thorough account of one family's experience in helping to build a new community."
With his next project, Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the Struma and World War II's Holocaust at Sea, Frantz researched an infamous but little-known chapter of World War II history. The Struma was a ship that was carrying eight hundred Jews who were fleeing the anti-Semitic government of Romania in the hope of reaching Palestine, which was in the hands of the British at the time. But the ill-fated ship never reached its destination. Engine troubles caused the crew to seek help from the port of Istanbul. It was allowed to anchor there for a time, but the Turkish government eventually towed it back out to the Black Sea, where a Soviet submarine, knowing full well who was on board, torpedoed and sank it. Only one passenger survived. Frantz and Collins reveal a story of unappealing anti-Semitism that plagued not only the Nazis, but also the British, Turks, and Russians. The result of this prejudice against Jews "was the worst civilian maritime disaster of the war," commented Jonathan Rosen in the New York Times. Not only do the authors reveal the unsavory attitudes of the British and Russians, but they also discuss the severe anti-Semitism of Romania, where the hatred of Jews is characterized as being even more extreme than in Germany. Rosen called this part of the book "a useful introduction to the peculiar character of the Holocaust in Romania," and thanked the authors for performing "a vital act of reclamation" of this piece of history. Although a Kirkus Reviews critic described the tone of the story as being "strangely flat for so dramatic an incident," the reviewer praised the authors' "good investigative work." Library Journal contributor Jim Doyle concluded that Death on the Black Sea is a "worthy addition to every Holocaust collection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of Friends in High Places: The Rise and Fall of Clark Clifford, p. 1925.
Christian Science Monitor, August 26, 1999, Yvonne Zip, "Nice Place to Visit … but Would You Want to Live There?," review of Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney's Brave New Town, p. 17.
Detroit Free Press, October 14, 1987, Bernie Shellum, review of Levine & Co.: The Story of Wall Street's Insider Trading Scandal.
Economist, February 20, 1993, review of A Full Service Bank, p. 90; June 10, 2000, "American Life—Mouse and Garden," review of Celebration, U.S.A., p. 92.
Journal of the American Planning Association, summer, 2000, Ivonne Audirac, review of Celebration, U.S.A., p. 326.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the Struma and World War II's Holocaust at Sea, p. 1820.
Library Journal, May 1, 1989, Steven J. Mayover, review of Selling Out: How We Are Letting Japan Buy Our Land, Our Industries, Our Financial Institutions, and Our Future, p. 87; March 15, 1990, Susan S. DiMattia, review of Selling Out, p. 43; March 1, 1992, Richard Drezen, review of A Full Service Bank, p. 102; October 1, 1999, Kevin Whalen, review of Celebration, U.S.A., p. 120; February 1, 2003, Jim Doyle, review of Death on the Black Sea, p. 100.
New Republic, June 12, 1989, Robert J. Samuelson, review of Selling Out, p. 31.
New York Times, March 21, 2003, Jonathan Rosen, "Fleeing the Holocaust, Only to Find It Waiting at Sea," review of Death on the Black Sea, p. E44.
New York Times Book Review, October 25, 1987, Patricia O'Toole, review of Levine & Co.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 5, 1999, Bob Hoover, "Mickey Mouse Doesn't Live Here," review of Celebration, U.S.A.
Publishers Weekly, August 2, 1991, review of From the Ground Up: The Business of Building in the Age of Money, p. 57; March 2, 1992, review of A Full Service Bank, p. 57; August 16, 1993, review of Teachers: Talking Out of School, p. 95; July 24, 1995, review of Friends in High Places, p. 56; July 26, 1999, review of Celebration, U.S.A., p. 69.
Utopian Studies, winter, 2000, Margie DeWeese-Boyd, review of Celebration, U.S.A., p. 165.
Washington Monthly, July-August, 1995, Charles W. Bailey, review of Friends in High Places, p. 55.