A brilliant tinkerer/inventor and a lawyer/marketing genius partnered to create Singer, a retail colossus that over 120 years grew into a universally recognized brand synonymous with quality and value. Following World War II, four successive CEOs made a series of catastrophic decisions in their efforts to redefine the company as competing in industries other than sewing. Of the four, one was forced out and subsequently murdered, one died of an unexpected heart attack just as he was about to defend the company from a takeover, one succeeded in the takeover, then dismembered the company before going to prison, and one played investors, tax authorities, securities regulators, and banks against each other until he suddenly just vanished. The machinations of these four comprised a quarter-centurylong soap opera, with power struggles, hostile takeovers, tax evasion, fraud, and even flight to China just a few steps ahead of the authorities.
Jack Buckman spent seventeen years in executive positions with The Singer Company in New York, London, Paris, and Chicago. He left the company when it became the subject of a hostile takeover and subsequently landed at Yale University as its vice-president and chief financial officer. It was at Yale that the idea of writing about Singer germinated. A professor of economic history on the Yale faculty became intrigued by Jack s description of Singer s history as the first multinational company and the birthplace of many of the modern retail tools we now take for granted. The professor suggested that Jack prepare a syllabus for a possible course, even a book, but Jack was never able to find the time until now.