Reich, Cary 1950(?)-1998
REICH, Cary 1950(?)-1998
Born c. 1950 in New York, NY; died of pancreatic cancer, May 3, 1998, in New York, NY; married Karen M. Eisenstadt, 1985 (died of cancer, October, 1996); children: Jeremy. Education: Graduated from Brooklyn College, 1970, and Northwestern University, 1971.
Journalist and biographer. Worked for financial publications, including Commercial and Financial Chronicle and Institutional Investor until 1988; freelance writer, 1988-98.
National Book Award finalist in nonfiction, 1996, for The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958; Overseas Press Award; John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism.
Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer: A Story of Money, Power, and the Reshaping of American Business, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, John Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 1998.
The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.
Cary Reich, who worked for several years as a journalist for financial periodicals, wrote biographies of two famous men who were influential in the financial sphere and well beyond. Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer: A Story of Money, Power, and the Reshaping of American Business is the life story of the corporate dealmaker who headed the investment banking firm Lazard Freres from the 1940s through the 1970s. The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958 deals with Rockefeller's life up until he became governor of New York. Reich had planned the book as the first of two volumes; he was working on the second volume at the time of his death.
Meyer, the subject of Reich's first biography, was born in France and initially worked for Lazard Freres in Paris. In the early 1940s, Meyer, a Jew, fled France's Nazi occupiers and joined Lazard in New York. Within a few years he was running the firm, and he remained its driving force until his death in 1979. His accomplishments included engineering mergers and acquisitions for numerous large corporate clients, especially International Telephone and Telegraph. "He helped perfect the art of the merger," commented James D. Wolfensohn in a review for the New Republic. Reich, however, deals with Meyer's business failures as well as his successes, and, though nothing was ever proven, Reich notes Meyer was sometimes accused of stock-price manipulation and other forms of financial wrongdoing. Having interviewed more than 100 people who knew Meyer, Reich also offers a detailed portrayal of his subject's personality, showing him as a tyrannical boss, an unfaithful husband, and a stern, strict father, who nevertheless was a loyal, caring friend to many—including political leaders such as the Kennedy family and Lyndon B. Johnson—and was involved in numerous charitable projects.
Eliot Janeway, discussing Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, reported that the book "reveals [Meyer] in all his chameleon roles—ruthless, magnetic, opportunistic, and always on the prowl for the most attractive partners around trading hours and after." Wolfensohn found Reich's depiction of Meyer "hard-edged and uncompromising," and thought that the author "underplays" the more admirable aspects of Meyer's character. Still, Wolfensohn allowed that the biography is "a lucid and well-researched account of a life of a great banker." Robert Lekachman, critiquing the book for the New York Times Book Review, called it "a lively, gossipy biography," adding that "Reich, while prudently avoiding heavy legal and accounting exegesis, has a talent for the clear explanation of essential technical detail." Janeway concluded that the book is "must reading for anyone interested in contemporary finance."
Nelson Rockefeller, Reich's subsequent subject, was the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who built the family fortune on Standard Oil and other businesses. Nelson, however, had little interest in "the mere making of money … perhaps because he had always had such a surfeit of it," commented Geoffrey C. Ward, who reviewed The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller for the New York Times Book Review. Reich shows, however, that Nelson had interests in many other things. As a young man, he managed the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and oversaw the family's oil operations in South America, where he developed a desire to improve the lives of the workers. In 1940 he became President Franklin D. Roosevelt's coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and later, back in the private sector, he invested in economic development in Latin America. After World War II he helped organize the United Nations and persuaded his father to buy land for its headquarters. He held government posts in the 1950s under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, helping to start and run the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In 1958, when Reich's account concludes, he was elected governor of New York. Rockefeller, a liberal Republican, would be reelected governor three times but would fail to realize his greatest ambition, to be president of the United States, losing the Republican nomination to Richard Nixon in 1960 and Barry Goldwater in 1964.
"Reich promises us that Rockefeller's life before the governorship, before the presidential campaigns, 'was more than prologue, but a wondrous story in itself,'" commented Washington Post Book World reviewer Richard Gid Powers. "He is right. It is a wonderful story." In Powers's opinion, Reich has written a "magnificent biography" that shows "how political and economic power work at the highest levels of American society." Boston Globe critic Michael Kenney noted that "Nelson Rockefeller turns out to be the grandest of subjects and Cary Reich a masterful biographer." Ward, however, disliked the book's reconstructed conversations and extensive use of acronyms; he also called its subject "maddeningly elusive." Nonetheless, Ward called the book "vivid" and "compelling," concluding that Reich's portrait of Rockefeller "is as rich and nuanced as we will ever have."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958, p. 320.
Boston Globe, November 5, 1996, Michael Kenney, "Recalling the Man Who Would Be President," review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, section C, p. 3.
Forbes, August 11, 1997, Caspar W. Weinberger, review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, p. 37.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 20, 1983, Eliot Janeway, "Fox among Wolves," review of Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer: A Story of Money, Power, and the Reshaping of American Business, p. 4.
New Republic, January 9, 1983, James D. Wolfensohn, "Creative Capitalist," review of Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer, pp. 41-42.
New York Times Book Review, October 16, 1983, Robert Lekachman, "Master of Mergers," review of Financier, the Biography of Andre Meyer, pp. 14-15; November 3, 1996, Geoffrey C. Ward, "A Charmed Life—Almost," review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, p. 10.
Nieman Reports, spring, 1997, R. W. Apple, Jr., review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, p. 81.
Publishers Weekly, September 2, 1996, review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, p. 99.
Washington Post Book World, December 1, 1996, Richard Gid Powers, "A Man of Means," review of The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, p. 1.
New York Times, March 4, 1998, section B, p. 10.*