Award-winning journalist Connie Bruck’s biography of media mogul Steve Ross captures the highs and lows of Ross’s career in a narrative “as fast-paced as the life it depicts” (Publishers Weekly).
Born to Jewish immigrant parents in 1920s Brooklyn, Steven Jay Rechnitz would become an unstoppable force in the world of business, a figure both revered and reviled by those who knew him. His early ventures—a limousine rental service operated under the auspices of his father-in-law’s Manhattan funeral home and a parking lot company whose co-owners harbored dubious connections to the criminal underworld—inspired a taste for substantial risk that was outpaced only by Ross’s success in turning that risk into profit. In a career that spanned both Wall Street and Hollywood, Ross’s mastery of obfuscation, deflection, denial, and his imaginative approach to the law finally culminated in the empire he had long craved: Time Warner, the largest media and entertainment company in the world. Extraordinary in its depth of coverage, startling in its frankness, Master of the Game is a riveting journey through the mind and career of a man who was by turns flamboyant, charismatic, and completely outrageous—an unstoppable force in the pursuit of an outsized dream.
This account of the man who began his career as a funeral director and rose to become the chairman of the largest media company in the world is as fast-paced as the life it depicts. Through interviews with some 250 people, including Ross himself, Bruck ( The Predators' Ball ) chronicles Ross's rapid transformation from an unknown, if ambitious, businessman to a media tycoon that began with his purchase of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1969, a company that would eventually become Warner Communications. Bruck does not shy away from describing Ross's character flaws and business mistakes, and she notes that allegations of questionable business practices dogged him much of his business life. Indeed, one of the longest sections of the book deals with the Westchester Premiere Theatre kickback scandal of the late '70s and early '80s in which several of Ross's top aides were convicted of fraud and perjury, although he himself avoided prosecution. Another lengthy chapter examines the Atari disaster, in which the rapid rise and fall of the video game company--a Warner subsidiary--nearly bankrupted Warner. For all his shortcomings, Ross, who died in 1992 at the age of 65, is depicted here as a charming, shrewd and visionary man who loved entertainers and the entertainment business. He emerges as better qualified to lead Time Warner than Gerald Levin who succeeded him, and who is portrayed by Bruck as a brilliant but uninspiring man who, the author suggests, will find it difficult to fully integrate Time Warner for the multimedia age. Although Bruck's book is riveting, one nevertheless wonders if there isn't more to Ross's story waiting to be told. Photos not seen by PW .