It’s always dangerous to declare the end of an era, especially in print. In “Autumn of the Moguls,” as the title indicates, New York columnist and curmudgeon Michael Wolff argues that the epoch of big moneymen and their domineering ways is coming to an end in an unwieldy mess of corporate corruption and mind-boggling business failures.
But somewhere between the time Wolff finished the book and it appeared in print, G.E. bought Universal. Long counted-out Edgar Bronfman Jr. was back in the game for Warner Music Group. And thus another cycle of Wall Street bloat and bombast begins — hardly an indication that mogul-to-be Bob Wright is the last of a dying breed. While an entertaining and dishy read, Wolff’s assertions have to be taken with a grain of salt. News happens, after all.
“Autumn” is an expansion of a number of Wolff’s columns, and readers familiar with his “This Media Life” pieces may have a sense of deja vu in some of the stories he recounts. While rather like a grandfather telling the same stories over and over again, he does have the eye and quick wit to give sharp summations of media players: “(Rupert) Murdoch was the Grand Canyon and the people who worked for him were the National Park guards and rangers chatting with the tourists about the wonders of the natural monument.”
Wolff did peg AOL Time Warner as an monumental disaster before it unraveled, but the rest of his Cassandra-izing doesn’t ring as prescient. He discounts the possibility of other moguls in the making — casting aside the Murdoch heirs as simply too young and pretty to attain the ruthlessness of their father.
Wolff should be wary, and give a bit more credence to another Wall Street maxim: Greed is good. And greed will ensure that another mogul will rise to the top.