250,000,000,000 Buyout Barons : KKR outfox Ross Johnson's group

KKR outfox Ross Johnson's group and walk off with RJR Nabisco, but the price comes with a colossal debt load

Ross Johnson had suspected he was heading for a fall. "They are not going to approve our bid," the RJR Nabisco president told TIME in an interview five days before his board of directors decided the giant company's fate. His foreboding was on target. On the night of Nov. 30, some 30 sleepless hours after the official bidding deadline had passed, the RJR directors named the winner in the biggest takeover wrangle in history. It was not the company's , president.

In a stunning rebuff to Johnson, the board awarded the food-and-tobacco giant to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the leveraged-buyout specialists. Underdog...

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