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Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media [Paperback]

Michael Wolff
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 July 2011

A blistering, dramatic, bittersweet portrait of the global media industry – its key deals, dealmakers, divas and delusions.

The global media industry has never been more powerful. And there is no more astute, forthright and entertaining chronicler of this roller-coaster world than award-winning writer Michael Wolff. In ‘Autumn of the Moguls’, a funny, frank, and incendiary account that looks hard at the great characters of this media age – from homes and gardens empress Martha Stewart to Disney czar Michael Eisner – he has written the guide we all need to the media, a world that is often more entertaining than what it produces.


Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (29 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007178832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007178834
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,800,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Apparently trivial, then segues into saying something original and profound about contemporary American society. He’s fearless in a way you don't often find among hacks today, chopping away at the legs of the most powerful men and women of our era like a jungle scout with a machete. He’s also very funny. When he’s on top form, he’s as good as Tom Wolfe.’ Toby Young, Books of the Year, Observer

‘Michael Wolff has been throwing custard pies at the rich and powerful since he was appointed New York magazine’s media columnist in 1998. “Autumn of the Moguls” is his greatest hits…he’s the Alexander Pope of the mogul set. If you had to have dinner with the most powerful journalists and businessmen in America – and Wolff describes just such a ghastly occasion in Chapter 22 – he’s the man you'd want to sit next to.’ Spectator

‘“Autumn of the Moguls” makes the 1 per cent grade of business literature that transcend the dutifully competent or ambitiously inept. A stylish writer of enormous wit, Wolff chooses an epic theme and writes with an incisiveness which not only makes you laugh but also demonstrates truths about business remarkably well.’ Observer

‘You should read this book. It is funny and extremely clever.’ New Statesman

‘A slice of heaven…Wolff’s talent is for taking a big idea and whacking it at you with added spin. Witty as well as hugely entertaining, provocative, sharp and spitefully funny. It is, most of all, a snapshot of an extraordinary time in the American media.’ Guardian

‘A hyperbolic and brilliantly truthful description of the creation of the media world…very funny.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Undeniably good.’ Financial Times

‘Clever, amusing, entertaining.’ Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

'Original, fearless, very funny. On top form, he's as good as Tom Wolfe.' Toby Young, Guardian Books of the Year

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent, but fun with some keen insight 7 Nov 2003
By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It is an irony, a special irony appreciated only by me, that during the period in the early seventies when Michael Wolff went to work as a copy boy for the New York Times, a headhunter was gently explaining to me that because I had only an undergraduate degree from UCLA and not, e.g., a master's in journalism from Columbia, that I had no chance of being hired by the New York Times, and indeed would not even be interviewed. Instead I went to work for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press while Wolff went on to become a best-selling writer and a columnist for New York magazine.
I mention this personal note since what Autumn of the Moguls is all about is, quite frankly, Michael Wolff. Indeed in the annals of self-indulgent and largely rhetorical tomes about media, Wolff has here something close to a singular achievement, something to rival (in its way) the memoirs of many a Hollywood movie producer. This is a book ostensibly about media wheelers and dealers, the money men who divide and conquer, merge and squeeze while manufacturing low-interest loans and golden parachutes for themselves. Yet Wolff's style is to concentrate on how the moguls have sought him out, how he has been invited to expensive shindigs ("I found myself on the Forbes family yacht" p. 75), while maintaining the acumen to see through their posturings and stupidities. Having established his authority--and to his credit he admits to having lost a buck or two in media deals himself--Wolff then digresses and digresses and then returns to the story, as leisurely as a patriarch at dinner with his heirs. Of course, as necessity has it, Wolff's observations and critiques are strictly after the fact. I suspect that some of the moguls mentioned herein might say that Wolff has raised Monday morning quarterbacking to an ethereal plain.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial Gossip as Background for a Conference 1 April 2004
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
If you want to read a book of common gossip about the foibles of those who head media companies, Autumn of the Moguls is the book for you. Mr. Wolff sees himself as a critic of the media and its leaders, and the gossip takes mostly a negative slant. He's a talented writer, and he does succeed in lampooning those in power . . . while acknowledging that even he feels the power of the media moguls when in their presence.
The book is structured around telling the story of a conference of media executives that Mr. Wolff participated in as an interviewer. If you have ever attended such a conference, you know that the main purposes are to make money for the promoters, make contacts for the participants and feed the egos of the speakers. Mr. Wolff captured those parts well, but in far too much detail for my taste. I found myself losing interest, and found it hard to keep picking the book up again.
I rated the book at two stars for several reasons.
First, as a source of gossip the book is flawed. People in the media industry do like to gossip about each other. I'm hardly a media insider, but I knew dozens of better stories about the people Mr. Wolff writes about than he included in his book. It seems like he doesn't really know the juicy gossip. Even when he reveals something that could be titillating, he doesn't do much with it. For example, one of his subjects is gay, and Mr. Wolff makes much of that point without ever connecting the fact to any good stories (other than being told not to print the fact). One can only conclude that Mr. Wolff doesn't know any good stories about the person.
Second, his analysis of the industry and its leaders is very superficial. It won't tell you anything you don't know from watching television.
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Amazon.com: 2.9 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial Gossip as Background for a Conference 4 Nov 2003
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you want to read a book of common gossip about the foibles of those who head media companies, Autumn of the Moguls is the book for you. Mr. Wolff sees himself as a critic of the media and its leaders, and the gossip takes mostly a negative slant. He's a talented writer, and he does succeed in lampooning those in power . . . while acknowledging that even he feels the power of the media moguls when in their presence.
The book is structured around telling the story of a conference of media executives that Mr. Wolff participated in as an interviewer. If you have ever attended such a conference, you know that the main purposes are to make money for the promoters, make contacts for the participants and feed the egos of the speakers. Mr. Wolff captured those parts well, but in far too much detail for my taste. I found myself losing interest, and found it hard to keep picking the book up again.
I rated the book at two stars for several reasons.
First, as a source of gossip the book is flawed. People in the media industry do like to gossip about each other. I'm hardly a media insider, but I knew dozens of better stories about the people Mr. Wolff writes about than he included in his book. It seems like he doesn't really know the juicy gossip. Even when he reveals something that could be titillating, he doesn't do much with it. For example, one of his subjects is gay, and Mr. Wolff makes much of that point without ever connecting the fact to any good stories (other than being told not to print the fact). One can only conclude that Mr. Wolff doesn't know any good stories about the person.
Second, his analysis of the industry and its leaders is very superficial. It won't tell you anything you don't know from watching television. Are you surprised to learn that newspapers are losing readers and the broadcast networks are losing viewers?
Third, there is almost no business perspective in the book. So this is not a book about business, but about people who work in businesses.
Fourth, Mr. Wolff seems to know journalists (from his Time Inc. days) better than he knows media moguls. I'm not really all that interested in what happens to journalists. So I found those sections uninteresting.
Fifth, Mr. Wolff doesn't like to point out anything good that someone has done. Although this book is a satire (like the fictional Bonfire of the Vanities), it lacks balance. Some of the people he writes about are fools, but some are pretty effective at what they do. From this book, the writer's perspective makes them all sound alike.
Sixth, the ultimate thesis is somewhat suspect . . . that the ego-driven need for attention by moguls has single-handedly corrupted the media. It's as though the audience plays no part in media corruption. If no one paid any attention to a new show, magazine or Internet format, that approach would soon be dropped.
I seldom feel like I've wasted my time when I read a book by a fine writer, but I did this time.
You may be wondering why I didn't rate this book at one star. I was impressed by the many occasions when Mr. Wolff acknowledged his own shortcomings in being awed by power. He isn't able to be critical to his subjects' faces like he is able to do in print. That was a nice touch. As for the rest of the book, I found his high opinion of himself as the sole voice of reason among those who write about the media to be annoying.
I would skip this book in favor of a current magazine, television show, or Web site offering the latest gossip on media moguls.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly Long and Wordy 26 Dec 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let's face it, Wolff is a writer and is paid to write. Therefore, he has to fill the covers of this tome with enough chapters to justify it's existence. In reality, the book could be boiled down to about 5 really good chapters and still get his point across nicely. But then, it wouldnt be very thick and thick books make for nice ego-feeders, they also feel "right" when you pick them up and pay for them. It's almost like you are getting something for your money, right? Wrong.
Bottom line: it should have been a 2-part article. I don't need to know nearly what I've been told to get the "point" (and I think he had one) of this dreary and politely mean diatribe.
Don't waste your money, just read his articles online instead. You get the same venom without wasting your time reading about large apartments, snobby luncheons and all the would-be, has-been, wanna-be's of the media world.
Also, be sure to note that nearly all the favorable reviews here are from the NYC area or the east coast. Draw your own conclusions.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Splenetic Humor and Sardonic Invective as Analysis 4 Nov 2003
By Craig Matteson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What do you say about a book like this? The style and pose of the book is such that if you praise it you are derided as a fool and if you express dislike it you are vilified as a flack for the vast media conspiracy or at least a naive phoole. Maybe what can be safely said is that if you like your gossip bilious, splenetic, and snarky, well, this is the book for you. It is hard to look away when someone has a powerful figure in his headlights and is driving them down at a high rate of speed. The act is so fascinatingly horrible that we just watch it happen no matter the guilt we feel for even tangentially being a part of such violence.
What you will find interesting in this book depends on your threshold of what you count as analysis. My own view is that the book is actually very light on serious insight. When Wolff passes judgment there is never supporting evidence beyond an anecdote or light witticism. There is a lot of stating, after the fact, what "everyone new at the time" when in fact few if any did. To Wolff almost everyone is a fool, a crook, or worse. Even his compliments have to be left-handed and include at least a back handed slap and an anticipatory retraction. He congratulates himself too much for minor accomplishments. He seems to think that saying merely outrageous things that draw sporadic and spasmodic approval he is somehow a serious analyst rather than a blind squirrel gathering an occasional nut.
And for someone who postures as one of the true insiders (note how proud he is in being invited to the inner-sanctum of the Foursquare conference) he, finally, comes across as quite provincial. He seems to actually believe that the media industry is the most powerful industry in the world and that we, all of us mere bumpkins, simply bow and scrape and accept every one of its pronouncements, promotions, and products. The standard ploy, regurgitated here, is that the fearsome enemy has all power but is simultaneously a complete and ineffectual fool. I don't know why this ploy works, but it does and is never true. One only needs to note the endless failures of network TV shows, magazines, movies, and books to skewer that kabob. Just as the small time villager projects his values and manner of life on the world, so does the blinkered Mr. Wolff.
But that is his job, his gig, his sense of himself. And more power to him, I suppose. Wolff writes with style and if you like that style, acerbic lapels and all, you will like this book. It really is all about style being its substance. There is actually no serious analysis that will do the student of business much good. But nearly everyone likes to read the dirt on the rich, powerful and the formerly rich and powerful. That is what this book provides.
I am giving this book four stars because I think it succeeds at what it is trying to be, however, for my personal tastes I would give it two stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent, Interminable & Pointless 26 Feb 2013
By Don Reed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Autumn of The Moguls, Michael Wolff; HarperCollins (Hardcover 2003)

Contents: Self-indulgent, meandering, & pointless observations about the American media & its top-ranking yo-yos in the year 2003. A few splendid bon mots & good, solid ideas are buried in a compost heap of nitwit media business jargon.

It's not surprising that ATM sold poorly (the book's acronym belies the publisher's returns). Wolff & others (say, Thomas Maier, author of a 1994 train wreck, the biography "Newhouse") have attributed their past publishing failures to any number of self-consoling reasons - none of which specify the obvious: their books were very badly written.

(In fairness, I should add that of the two books, ATM is the far lesser of the two evils. There are faint but irrefutable indications that Wolff's editor had actually looked at & did some work on the manuscript before it was published. But not much.)

2007: ATM was pulped, to make room for new Lyrical Ballad acquisitions (an act of joy, not regret).

Checking for tucked-away mementos, on p. 211, I re-read the following:

"Consultants have become very big in THE MEDIA BUSINESS not least of all because so many people have gone into THE MEDIA BUSINESS who know nothing about THE MEDIA BUSINESS & so many MEDIA BUSINESSES have bought other parts of the MEDIA BUSINESS that have no relation to the specific skill sets..."

(Capitalized for emphasis. The final thirty-three words of Wolff's interminable ooze are unprintable. I don't want to type them.)

Did I really read 210 pages of this madness? I can scarcely believe it.

Post Note (03/02/13) - From "Nowhere Man's" superb review of Stefan Zweig's "The World of Yesterday: An Autobiography" (dated May 10, 2012, see):

The Austrian Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) "really does come off as Europe's first fanboy - each chapter may as well be titled 'Look at Me Hanging Around With...' - & his clodhopping prose is frequently insufferable. The first two-hundred pages read like the diary of a deadly dull autograph collector & expose the fundamental second-rate quality of Zweig's artistic intelligence."

My post, to him: "I just realized with a start that the exact same author is still among us. His name is Michael Wolff; see my review of 'Autumn of The Moguls' (2003), a now-mercifully forgotten 'book' (it had a binding) which, by complete coincidence, I posted only a few days ago, using material that I had saved from years ago..."

Post Note (03/05/13): See review of "Comets, Creators & Destroyers," by David Levy; Simon & Schuster (Touchstone; 1998)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars puh-leeze 15 Aug 2006
By Paul E. Tormey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I suppose this book's presence in the bargain rack is testimony enough, but I will pile on anyway. I believe Mr Wolff's point is that the media industry is in constant disarray becuase media moguls really don't know what they are doing, with the possible exception of Rupert Murdoch. Trouble is, to get there one has to endure a 365 page rant which has all the (and maybe more) free-associative ramble and digression of a drunk guy at a bar who WILL NOT SHUT UP. A disaster from the get-go.
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