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Memoirs of Alan Greenspan

Penguin won the auction after out-bidding Warner Books, HarperCollins and Random House.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 18:08 IST
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Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, famed for clouding the meaning of his words, signed a deal on Tuesday to publish his memoirs with The Penguin Press, after a fierce bidding war.

"It is a singular honour for The Penguin Press to publish Alan Greenspan, who has spent his extraordinary career reckoning with how the world really works," Penguin President and Publisher Ann Godoff said in a statement.

"His book will be about what we can know, what we can't know and what we should do about it."

Penguin, a unit of Pearson Plc., said it would publish Greenspan's book in 2007, but gave no details on how much he would be paid or whether the cryptic former central banker would use a ghost-writer.

Publishing industry sources said bids had topped $8 million as Washington lawyer Robert Barnett negotiated with top publishers, including Random House imprint Knopf, Warner Books and HarperCollins.

Such an advance would be one of the biggest in publishing history, though short of the estimated $12 million Random House reportedly paid former President Bill Clinton for My Life, a book also represented by Barnett.

Pope John Paul II, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former General Electric Co. Chairman Jack Welch also rank among the top recipients of upfront money before any books are sold.

The estimated size of the advance left many in New York publishing circles wondering whether Penguin could possibly make a profit.

"Many are certainly wondering whether the book could really be worth it's fetching price, but then again, the mystique that Greenspan has cultivated over the years, and his eventful two-decade tenure as Fed Chairman, may find a large readership not only here but abroad," Publishers Weekly wrote.

ANECDOTES AND CONUNDRUMS

The New York Times, which obtained a copy of Greenspan's 10-page book proposal, said it starts with an anecdote on how he heard of the Sept. 11 attacks while flying from Zurich to Washington.

The newspaper also reported the book discusses his opposition to economic protectionism, his explanation of the "conundrum" of long-term interest rates and his view that China will play a major role in the global economy.

As to whether Greenspan will dish the dirt on any of the world leaders he met, he was vague in his proposal, writing, "I do not intend to dwell on personality aberrations, except as they affect policy decision-making -- which, of course, always involves personalities."

Greenspan will also suggest that the divide between Republicans and Democrats has become so large that a well-financed independent candidate will emerge in either 2008 or 2012, the Times reported.

Greenspan retired at the end of January after 18 1/2 years as Federal Reserve chairman. He became a household name for playing a key role during America's longest economic expansion in the 1990s.

A symbol of integrity while in office, he raised eyebrows on Wall Street for speaking on the economy at private events just a week after leaving the central bank, charging more than $100,000 per appearance for his musings on the U.S. economy.

While Greenspan made global headlines for his economic views, it remains to be seen whether he can produce a page-turning read after years in a job where he appeared to speak in extraordinarily cryptic financial terms.

Among Greenspan's best-known proclamations was his 1996 suggestion that the stock market might be suffering from "irrational exuberance." While that phrase went down in history, it was buried in a rambling, 4,000-word speech.

Greenspan admitted his statements could be confusing, joking, "If you think you understood me, it's because I misspoke."