Where's the Limit? Ross Johnson and the RJR Nabisco Takeover Battle

The biggest takeover battle in history raises questions about greed, debt and the well-being of American industry

The date was portentous: on Oct. 19, precisely one year after the stock market crashed, the chief executive of RJR Nabisco was the host of a lavish meal at Atlanta's Waverly Hotel. Ross Johnson's guests had come to expect such treatment. A brash and hard-driving manager with a fondness for fine living, he liked to treat RJR Nabisco's board members to an elegant evening out before the next day's regular meeting.

On this night, however, Johnson's purpose was not just to be convivial. Declaring that he had tried everything he could during the past two years to boost RJR Nabisco's stock...

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