When William Cohan was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, he had to immerse himself in the French Existentialists. He thought a lot about the fragility of life. And he made friends, whom he pretty much lost touch with over the years, including the son of one president, and the grandson of another. His latest book is about four of those friends, their lives, and their sudden, tragic deaths.
Cohan spent 17 years as an investment banker, in Mergers and Acquisitions. He learned the inner workings of Wall Street, which he calls "the left ventricle of capitalism." Then, as an author, he exposed those inner workings in The Last Tycoons, and House of Cards, and Why Wall Street Matters, to name a few.
During our conversation, Cohan's memorable and wide-ranging riffs on our financial system, its most colorful players, and the relatively recent changes in how Wall Street compensates its key movers, leads to a question that Cohan is wrestling with -- in real time -- with us: "What kind of society have we begot?" That question prompts a cameo from another of our 2020 authors - Mitchell Jackson - and leads Cohan to present a 30 billion dollar opportunity for Jeff Bezos, which At Home With Authors plans to forward to Amazon's leader for a response.
During this 49-minute conversation, we return to the beginning, at Andover, and those four promising lives -- classmates of William Cohan -- and the signature question of our At Home With Authors 2020 programming: What Gives You Hope?
William Cohan says he sees hope and despair as two sides of the same coin.
He notes that an election is coming up on November 3rd. He hopes it's not a coin toss.