The Empire Undone: The Wild Rise and Hard Fall of Chris Whittle

Vance H. Trimble, Author Carol Publishing Corporation $24.95 (371p) ISBN 978-1-55972-309-1
Enjoying the cooperation of Whittle and his friends, family and associates, Trimble's work is more official history than critical biography. By accentuating the positive and minimizing the negative, Trimble (Sam Walton) diminishes what is otherwise a good story. While at the University of Tennessee, Whittle and three mates published a freshman guide that, after several difficult years, evolved into the 13-30 Corp. and profitable enough to acquire Esquire magazine. A falling out with his partner, Phillip Moffitt, resulted in his colleague's taking control of the magazine and leaving Whittle with the remainder of the business, which he renamed Whittle Communications. In 1989, Whittle started the controversial TV program for students, Channel One. This shift to a video-oriented company, coupled with Whittle's inability to control either his own or his company's expenses, sowed the seeds for financial disaster. By January 1995 Whittle was shorn of everything but his stake in the Edison Project, designed to own and operate for-profit schools. A scaled-back version began recently in Texas. Whittle's decline was in many ways more fascinating than his ascent, and deeper analysis of his demise would have made Trimble's biography better rounded. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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