How bad is the worst thing you’ve ever done at work? Maybe you “borrowed” a few pens and paper for your kids. Perhaps, you “fudged” some expenses. And maybe you now feel guilty about such petty thievery.
A new book that will likely make that guilt disappear in trice.
When you compare whatever you did to what happened at long-gone electronics chain Crazy Eddie, most malfeasance will likely pale into insignificance. Put another way, most infractions would be as noticeable as an invisible barnacle on the backside of a blue whale.
The rise and spectacular fall of the chain, and its CEO Eddie Antar is the subject of a the forthcoming book Retail Gangster: The INSANE, Real-Life Story of CRAZY EDDIE by investigative journalist Gary Weiss. The book, published August 23, is a must-read.
Weiss deftly tells the story of three mind-bogging complicated things at the same time: The history of the Antar clan, the state of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, and the nature of the epic fraud committed by Crazy Eddie’s CEO, Eddie Antar, and his cronies . Weiss does all that without scrambling your brain.
First in complexity are the cast of characters. The main two are Eddie Antar the company CEO and his cousin Sam Antar the CFO
The Antar clan emigrated from Syria which Weiss says partly explains the grey attitude towards paying taxes. Indeed, scamming New York State of sales taxes was how the Crazy Eddie debacle started.
However, when Sam Antar leanred the in-and-outs of Wall Street, Finance and public accounting, that the fraud really ramped up. Gone was dodging sales tax. In was cooking the company’s books and going public. Sam Antar had figured out that the family could make even 1more money by falsely boosting profits to help push the stock price higher.
Weiss’s book mentions something Sam Antar told me — the crooked but exceptionally charming CFO, won over the firm’s auditors with outward displays of helpfulness and so put off the inevitable detection of the fraud. (If you ever do meet Sam Antar, you will likely find him charming and excellent company. I know I did. I’d happy have lunch with him again.)
Eventually the fraud was detected, the company CEO Eddie fled the country and Sam Antar cut a deal to testify against his cousin in exchange for avoiding prison time.
What’s perhaps even more interesting is the context in which Weiss places the epic fraud. At the time of the accounting malfeasance — the 1980s — New York City was also doing interesting things with its accounts in order to present its financial state in a favorable way.
There’s also a more detailed description of the electronics trade in America at the time and the stranglehold that a manufacturers had on what prices retailers could sell their goods. In simple terms, the idea of discounting, which is what Eddie & co wanted to do, was anathema.
Weiss deftly weaves the family story, with the New York Zeitgeist of the 1970s and 1980s, along with the rather complicated frauds committed by the Sam and Eddie Antar. In other words, he turns the complicated and baffling into simple and understandable.
This book is worth you time, and Weiss should be saluted for his work.
That’s quite a feat when you consider there are at least three characters in the story named Sam. There is also a lot of complicated fraud and New York City wasn’t the place it is now.