It sounds the stuff of the definitive corporate blockbuster; a tale of four brothers born at the tail-end of the '30s in a run-down quarter of New York. James, the youngest, carves out a brilliant career with Bristol-Myers-Squibb, the pharmaceutical giant. Joseph, slightly older, becomes a successful lawyer with Westinghouse. Louis, the second son, progresses swiftly from McKinsey to the presidency of American Express to the chairmanship of RJR Nabisco. The eldest, Richard, joins IBM from college and, having ascended almost vertically, is tipped as its future chief executive.
Here, however, the plot takes a twist. In 1989 Richard is struck down by a crippling back illness and is forced to resign. He spends the next four years recuperating. In 1993, when he is ready to return to work, IBM is in crisis and seeking a new head. It appoints younger brother Louis who hasn't had a day's experience in the computer industry.
Now, it might be expected that Richard would be offered a job, or a consultancy, or at least asked for a few words of advice. On the contrary, the phone never rings. Richard tells all who enquire that he is not in the least bitter. He does, however, express interest in running a young, leading-edge technology firm - something, indeed, not unlike those dynamic start-ups that first precipitated IBM's spectacular fall. The sequel, be asssured, should be well worth the wait.