The Inside Story of How the World's Biggest Companies Survived an Economy on the Brink
A kaleidoscopic account of the financial carnage of the pandemic, revealing the fear, grit, and gambles that drove the economy’s winners and losers—from a leading business reporter
“A true masterwork . . . perceptive, well researched, and captivating.”—David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chairman of The Carlyle Group, bestselling author of How to Invest
It was the ultimate test for CEOs, and almost none of them saw it coming. In early March 2020, with the Dow Jones flirting with 30,000, the world’s biggest companies were riding an eleven-year economic high. By the end of the month, millions were out of work, iconic firms were begging for bailouts, and countless small businesses were in freefall. Slick consulting teams and country-club connections were suddenly of little use: Business leaders were fumbling in the dark, tossing out long-term strategy and making decisions on the fly—decisions that, they hoped, might just save them.
In Crash Landing, award-winning business journalist Liz Hoffman shows how the pandemic set the economy on fire—but if you look closely, the tinder was already there. After the global financial crisis in 2008, corporate leaders embraced cheap debt and growth at all costs. Wages flatlined. Millions were pushed into the gig economy. Companies crammed workers into offices, and airlines did the same with planes. Wall Street cheered on this relentless march toward efficiency, overlooking the collateral damage and the risks sowed in the process.
Based on astonishing access inside some of the world’s biggest and most iconic companies, Crash Landing is a kaleidoscopic account of the most remarkable period in modern economic history, revealing—through gripping, fly-on-the-wall reporting—how CEOs battled an economic catastrophe for which there was no playbook: among them, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, blindsided by a virus in the middle of a high-stakes effort to go public; American Airlines’ Doug Parker, shuttling between K Street and the White House, determined to secure a multibillion-dollar bailout; and Ford’s Jim Hackett, as his assembly lines went from building cars to churning out ventilators.
In the tradition of Too Big to Fail and The Big Short, Crash Landing exposes the fear, grit, and gambles behind the pandemic economy, while probing its implications for the future of work, corporate leadership, and capitalism itself, asking: Will this remarkable time give rise to newfound resilience, or become just another costly mistake to be forgotten?
Lockdowns force giant corporations to their knees in this animated recap of the Covid-19 collapse. Journalist Hoffman draws on interviews with CEOs and Wall Street investors to recreate the pandemic's impact on companies like Hilton Hotels and Airbnb, whose occupancies cratered; American Airlines, which lost most of its bookings to travel bans and fear of contagion; Ford Motor Company, which had to close its auto factories; and investment bank Goldman Sachs, which confronted chaotic markets where, briefly, demand for U.S. Treasury bonds—"normally the most easily tradable financial asset in the world"—dried up. It's a narrative of panic, scrambles for loans from suddenly hostile banks, supplications for government bailouts (the airlines' epic negotiation with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, congressmen, and union adversaries to secure a $50 billion lifeline is a centerpiece), and adroit improvisation. Later chapters find executives flummoxed by the "Great Resignation," which saw "more than twenty-seven million Americans quit their jobs between September of 2020 and the end of 2021." The author embroiders her lucid rundown of financial and managerial travails with piquant anecdotes. Savvy analysis and colorful reportage make this an engrossing boardroom view of an economic cataclysm. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary.