Books & Literature

Book Review: Kingpin: Legal Lessons From the Underworld, by Sarah Bartholomeusz

An exploration of the business lessons to be learned from the achievements of seven well-known drug trade Kingpins spanning the 1930s to present day.

Kings and a Queen of the drug trade feature in a book with a twist. Author Sarah Bartholomeusz isn’t a crime fiction writer but a lawyer with an interest in the law of business. She is the CEO of corporate law firm You Legal and this is her second published book.

The twist? Bartholomeusz explores salutary lessons to be learned from the business achievements of seven well-known drug trade Kingpins spanning the 1930s to present day: Frank Lucas, Kuhn Sa, Griselda Blanco, Pablo Escobar, Dawood Ibrahim, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loeras and Christopher Coke.

In an era of fierce business innovation driven primarily by changing technologies and with a laser focus on innovative cost management and competition, Bartholomeusz’s unique take on a profitable yet criminal enterprise bears fruit, identifying lessons applicable to entrepreneurs driving legitimate competitive enterprises.

As the stories of each Kingpin are examined, it becomes very clear pressures some consider seemingly unique to contemporary 21st Century business practice were in fact ever-present in the drug trade. Additionally, Bartholomeusz notes in her preface, “their responses to compliance situations are not curtailed by the law, best practice or – at times- even logic. This makes them some of the most innovative and creative business leaders in the world, for better and for worse, and they therefore provide us with lessons that are simply unavailable through the study of mainstream leaders.”

Bartholomeusz demonstrates how contemporary business and legal compliance practices relate to the success and failure of each Kingpin’s business history. After a chapter offering an understanding of the illegal drug trade, the reader is ready to tackle each case study.

For the short book it is, Kingpin: Legal Lessons From the Underworld offers a superbly vigorous mix of storytelling, critical analysis, and recognition of solutions pertinent to the mistakes made by Kingpins, which are also vital tools for forward-looking entrepreneurs ensuring success, not failure.

The great value of this book is its lateral conceptual thinking. By acknowledging, yet not being constrained by the morality aspect of illegal business dealing, Bartholomeusz has been able to come to grips with what innovation in business and application of law can be at its absolute widest and most challenging. This is not too say such considerations should not be considered or regarded. The cost of business choices are more than fiscal and legal in the academic sense, as the tragic end of these drug dealers illustrates. Nonetheless, these non fiscal and legal consequences are also part of the sum total of the success or failure of an enterprise. This remains long in the mind after finishing the book.

Reviewed by David O’Brien
Twitter: @DavidOBupstART

Rating out of 10:  9

Released by: You Legal
Release date: November 2016
RRP: $29.95

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