My novel, The Gravy Train, is the story of a novice banker who tries to help an aging chairman buy his company back before the Wall Street sharks who drove it into bankruptcy can carve it up for themselves.
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Finn Keane is a starry-eyed, freshly-minted MBA who lands a job at Abercrombie, Wirth & Co., the hottest firm on Wall Street in a red-hot market. He’s assigned to work on his first deal under the firm’s biggest producer, Jack Shane. Finn is thrilled. The deal is an ambitious acquisition by northeast regional department store chain Kristos & Co. of the high-end retailer, Milstein Brothers Stores, that will create a nationwide retail department store juggernaut. Finn immediately bonds with Nick Christanapoulas, the chairman of Kristos & Co., who has handed the day-to-day reins of the 160-store chain he built to his idiot son-in-law, Stanley, who Shane talked into the ill-conceived deal.
Shortly after the deal closes, the economy tanks and the markets crash. The merged company defaults on the junk bonds that Shane orchestrated to finance the deal even before it makes its first interest payment.
It’s at that point that Finn learns that Shane isn’t only ABC’s biggest producer; he’s also its biggest SOB.
Immediately after the company is forced to file for bankruptcy, the Wall Street sharks close in, led by Shane, and things move quickly after that. Finn gets fired by Shane and he aligns himself with Nick. Finn and Nick team up with a streetwise old bankruptcy lawyer in an effort to help Nick buy the company back out of bankruptcy.
Finn and his rag-tag group face off against Shane, the creditors and their battery of numbers crunchers, led by one of the most sophisticated and brazen bankruptcy lawyers on Wall Street, who knows all the dirty tricks of the trade and then some.
As in all minnow-versus-whale stories, you wonder how the good guys can possibly win because the odds are so stacked against them. But even if they can’t, half the fun is seeing if they can at least land a few solid punches against the bad guys before they go down swinging.
The book is based in part on the first bankruptcy deal I worked on early in my career, and it has some colorful characters based on a number of the oddballs and SOBs I encountered in the course of it.
And the title of the book is taken from real life as well: it’s the nickname of the Amtrak train from New York to Wilmington, Delaware, the site of the court where many of the main bankruptcy cases are decided. It’s on the cars of The Gravy Train on the way to court where the lawyers, bankers and creditors committees who populate the bankruptcy world huddle together. They posture, haggle and yell at each other to cut the deals they present to the judges.
I hope you’ll give The Gravy Train a try. It’s a fast-paced read that will give you some insight into how the bankruptcy game works, and hopefully entertain you.