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Book Excerpt from Going Down Tobacco Road:
Ross Johnson, CEO of RJR Nabisco, led the first of two major “barbarian” waves – laying waste to a corporation and then putting the company up for sale, thinking he would be able to buy it. Ross’s legal counsel advised him not to try, but Ross surely believed he would succeed. To his surprise, he found that his advisor was right.
When the smoke cleared from the financial battle, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) had bought three major businesses: a U.S. tobacco company, an international tobacco company, and a worldwide food company. All three were generating solid earnings and cash flow. But KKR saddled them with $30 billion of 13% debt and interest of $10 million a day. KKR’s challenge was to pare that debt and keep some of the cash for themselves.