Money Games: The Inside Story of How American Dealmakers Saved Korea’s Most Iconic Bank (Wiley, 2020) by Weijian Shan’s, is a riveting tale of one of the most successful buyout deals ever: the acquisition and turnaround of what used to be Korea’s largest bank by the American firm Newbridge Capital. Full of intrigue and suspense, this insider's account is told by the chief architect of the deal itself, the celebrated author and private equity investor Weijian Shan. With billions of dollars at stake, and the nation's economic future on the line, Newbridge Capital sought to become the first foreign firm in history to take control of one of Korea’s most beloved financial institutions. In a proud country still reeling from a humiliating International Monetary Fund bailout in the Asian Financial Crisis, Newbridge Capital had to muster every ounce of skill, determination, and patience to bring the deal to closing. Shan takes readers inside the battle to win control of the bank—a delicate, often exasperating process that meant balancing the goals of Newbridge with those of the government, bank employees, and Korea's powerful industrial titans. The author describes how Newbridge transformed and rebuilt the struggling bank into a shining example of modern banking—as well as a massively profitable investment. In the secret world of private equity, few buyouts have been written about with such clarity, detail, and insight—and none with such completeness, covering not only the dealmaking but also the transformation and eventual exit of the investment.
It is difficult to introduce the author, Weijian Shan, in a few words. He holds an MA and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. He lives in Hong Kong; he is chairman and CEO of PAG, a private equity firm. Prior to PAG, he was a partner at TPG, a private equity firm based in San Francisco. He also worked at the World Bank in Washington and at JP Morgan. He led a number of landmark transactions, including the acquisitions of Korea First Bank and China's Shenzhen Development Bank, both of which made his investors billions of dollars in profits and were made into case studies by Harvard Business School. He also held teaching positions, first in China then at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded the China Economic Review. Shan is a frequent contributor to journals and newspapers such as The New York Times, Financial Times, and WSJ. Weijian Shan’s first book ‘Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America’, was called ‘a deeply affecting memoir’ by the Wall Street Journal and one of The Financial Times’ 2019 top ten Best Books of the Year. It details Shan’s raw will to succeed, and survive, against all odds as a former hard laborer as a member of the Inner Mongolia Construction Army Corp, to become one of the more respected and successful financiers in the ‘new China. Out of the Gobi was published in 2019 by Wiley and became a bestseller.
In my interview with him, we spoke about the context of the Asian financial crisis and the international rescue efforts. We discussed how private equity can be a force for good ad create value. I asked what can we learn from the Asian financial crisis of 1998 that we can apply to our current global financial crisis. We also discussed the potential of Asia / West relations. This is in fact an important theme in his previous book too. In short, Money Games is a great book (more than what the title could let you guess) that a diverse readership will find interesting: economists, political scientists, businessmen, policymakers.
Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.