THE MAVERICK AND HIS MACHINE: Thomas Watson Sr. and the Making of IBM
The story of Watson's transformation of the disorganized, amorphous Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company into streamlined, world-famous IBM receives a spirited telling by Maney, a USA Today technology columnist. Access to previously unexplored records has provided juicy raw material, including letters and internal memos, to bring America's first celebrity CEO to life in this warts-and-all biography. Watson (1874–1956) saw the strategic value of corporate culture early and was protective of what he built; Maney argues that the strength of that culture later allowed IBM to survive the potentially devastating effects of Watson's personality flaws. Charismatic, optimistic and generous, Watson was also self-absorbed and psychologically ruthless in getting things done his way. Hard to work for and unable to distinguish between the company and himself, he also behaved like a dictatorial CEO and wreaked havoc with his family. Watson's mania for overreaching peaked when he accepted a decoration from Hitler in 1937 under the deluded impression that Hitler would follow Watson's campaign for world peace through world trade; according to Maney, that episode illustrates how out-of-control Watson's ego had grown. Yet, as Maney makes clear in this timely tale of the man who made information into an industry and discovered the power of corporate culture, "Watson wasn't just the best business story at the end of the 1930s; he had become a great American success story that captured the popular imagination." Agent, Sandy Dijkstra. (May)
Forecast:Maney's book should hold great appeal not only for avid business readers but also for devotees of the vicissitudes of financial dynasties. That appeal will be supported by a 75,000-copy first printing and a $100,000 ad/promo budget.