Barbarians at the Gate (film)

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Barbarians at the Gate
DVD cover
Based onBarbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
by Bryan Burrough
John Helyar
Screenplay byLarry Gelbart
Directed byGlenn Jordan
StarringJames Garner
Jonathan Pryce
Theme music composerRichard Gibbs
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerThomas M. Hammel
ProducersRay Stark
Marykay Powell (co-producer)
Jeffrey Downer (associate producer)
CinematographyThomas Del Ruth
Nicholas D. Knowland
EditorPatrick Kennedy
Running time107 minutes
Production companiesColumbia Pictures Television
HBO Pictures
Rastar Pictures
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkHBO
Picture formatColor
Audio formatStereo
Original release
  • March 20, 1993 (1993-03-20)

Barbarians at the Gate is a 1993 television movie based upon the 1989 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.

The film won both the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie and the Golden Globe for Best Television Movie while James Garner won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. FOX also aired the film later in the same year.


Self-made multimillionaire F. Ross Johnson, CEO of RJR Nabisco, decides to take the tobacco and food conglomerate company 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 is 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."



  1. ^ "Those Good Old Takeover Days". The New York Times. March 18, 1993.

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