Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World's Largest Derivatives Exchange

Some books jump out at you as something you have to read.  Others, like this one, sneak up on you.  Commodities trading and a corporate merger hardly sound like subjects that could keep most people awake, let alone hold their interest.  And yet... the book was interesting and engaging.

I have a weakness for books like this; books that take something that you don't know much about, and explain it in a way that's vivid and easy to understand, but not too dumbed down.

Zero Sum Game tracks the acquisition - officially labeled as a "merger" - of the Chicago Board of Trade, or "CBOT", by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, or "Merc", which was finalized in the summer of 2007 by newly hired marketing executive Erika Olson, who had no idea for the wild ride she was in for when hired just before the acquisition commenced.

The book closely follows the action, and gives some background about many of the major players.  At times, given that I read the book in bits and pieces, I'd forget who someone was, as there are a lot of people mentioned, but the descriptions add a lot to the story in terms of making it human, rather than just a description of what the various companies did.

It's a pity we don't learn more about institutions and economics like those described here in school, as markets like these are so central to the economies of modern countries.

Would I recommend it?  If you're interested in reading about something different, certainly!

In an interesting footnote, one of the major players in the book, the ICE recently (end of 2013) concluded their purchase of the storied New York Stock Exchange.

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