Lee Iacocca is back in print - grumbling about Japanese trade practices, volunteering to pay more taxes and revealing that he once considered a takeover of General Motors.
The new book, "Talking Straight," arrived in bookstores today, about four years after his autobiography conquered the best-seller lists.Its initial printing is 750,000; booksellers can only hope that it measures up to "Iacocca: An Autobiography," which has sold 2.6 million hardcover copies and 3.5 million paperbacks worldwide.
"Talking Straight" picks up about where the autobiography left off. Where the latter retold his firing from Ford Motor Co., the new book starts with the Chrysler chief executive being canned as head of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Centennial Commission.
Over 324 pages, Iacocca also discusses the death of his first wife, Mary, and his brief second marriage; Chrysler's indictment on charges it sold cars that had been test driven by executives with the odometers disconnected, and his decision not to run for president.
But most of the book is given over to Iacocca's musings on America's problems, rendered in Iacocca's feisty, sometimes profane style. Education, farm policy, the importance of family, the failings of Ronald Reagan - Uncle Lido has a whole lot of things he wants to get off his chest.
-"I'm willing to pay more taxes. I can afford it. But what I cannot afford is to bury my kids under a dung heap of public debt that will smother them and their kids, and their grandkids - forever."
-American history consists of 20-year upheavals followed by eight years of calm, and the current quietude is ending. "I don't know if all the banks are going to go out of business or if we're going to start a shooting war, but something pretty bad is likely to happen."
-Japan should be told to limit its trade surfeit with the United States. "The idea really constipates free-trade purists, of course," he said.
-Corporate takeover specialists often gut well-run companies for quick gains. "We've got to tell our kids to get away from this fast-buck mentality and to start thinking about other people beside themselves."
Still, Iacocca does not eschew all mergers (Chrysler has merged with American Motors since the last book was written).
And he writes that last spring, automobile dealer Victor Potamkin and Allied-Signal chairman Ed Hennessy approached him separately to suggest an unsolicited takeover of the industry behemoth, General Motors.
At first, Iacocca says, he dismissed the idea. But talks continued, and Iacocca even met secretly with investment banker Felix Rohatyn. He consulted a takeover lawyer and investigated financing before dropping the proposal.
"I concluded that it might be easier to buy Greece," he said.
"Talking Straight" was written with New York Times reporter Sonny Kleinfield and published by Bantam Books. It is a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and foreign rights have been sold so far in the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Norway, Italy and Japan.
It costs $21.95, but as with the first book, Iacocca has promised to give all his profits to charity.
"Iacocca" was one of the publishing phenomenons of the 1980s. The book has been published in 18 languages "in countries where they could not properly pronounce Iacocca's name," said Bantam publicist Stuart Applebaum.
"Iacocca" was on the New York Times best seller list for 80 weeks, 40 of them in the top position.