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Barbarians at the Gate (film)

Barbarians at the Gate
DVD cover
Based on Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco 
by Bryan Burrough
John Helyar
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Starring James Garner
Jonathan Pryce
Theme music composer Richard Gibbs
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Ray Stark
Editor(s) Patrick Kennedy
Running time 107 minutes
Production company(s) Columbia Pictures Television
Rastar Pictures
Distributor HBO
Original channel HBO
Original release March 20, 1993

Barbarians at the Gate is a television movie based upon the book by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco.

The film was directed by Glenn Jordan and written by Larry Gelbart. It stars James Garner as F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco, and Jonathan Pryce as Henry Kravis, his chief rival for the company. It also features Peter Riegert, Joanna Cassidy and Fred Dalton Thompson.


Self-made multi-millionaire F. Ross Johnson decides to take the tobacco and food conglomerate RJR Nabisco private in 1988 after receiving advance news of the likely market failure of the company's smokeless cigarette called Premier, the development of which had been intended to finally boost the company's stock price.[1]

The free-spending Johnson's bid for the company is opposed by two of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, Henry Kravis and his cousin. Kravis feels betrayed when, after Johnson initially discusses doing the LBO with Kravis, he takes the potentially enormous deal to another firm, the Shearson Lehman Hutton division of American Express.

Other bidders emerge, including Ted Forstmann and his company, Forstmann Little, after Kravis and Johnson are unable to reconcile their differences. The bidding goes to unprecedented heights, and when executive Charles Hugel becomes aware of how much Johnson stands to profit in a transaction that will put thousands of Nabisco employees out of work, he quips, "Now I know what the 'F' in F. Ross Johnson stands for." The greed was so evident, Kravis's final bid is declared the winner, even though Johnson's was higher.

The title of the book and movie comes from a statement by Forstmann in which he calls that Kravis' money "phoney junk bond crap" and how he and his brother are "real people with real money," and that to stop raiders like Kravis: "We need to push the barbarians back from the city gates."


In Popular Culture

In the podcast Comedy Bang Bang, comedian Paul Rust refers to the film in the prologue to his popular segment "New No-Nos", while discussing a run-in with Nabisco concerning Chex Mix.[2]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. Review/Television; Those Good Old Takeover Days. The New York Times, New York, March 18, 1993.
  2. ^ "The Bisco Boys." Comedy Bang Bang: the Podcast. Earwolf Media, LLC. 21 Mar. 2013. Podcast.

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