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Byline: James DeTar
General Electric Co. had a chance to buy a fleet of railroad cars cheap.
North American Car dropped into bankruptcy in the mid-1980s, and was selling assets. But some skeptical top managers at GE wondered if their electric appliances company could make money in the railroad business.
Not Al Barber, a promising younger executive chosen as GE's top negotiator. Barber thought it a good deal for GE. But in the summer of 1985 talks dragged on with North American's parent, Tiger International.
Some 30 lawyers gathered on both sides. They agreed on little. Barber wasn't about to give up, though. The proposed buyout felt right.
But first he had to grab the situation and shake it. He told the lawyers he'd end the deal if it didn't close by midnight. He'd see them in bankruptcy court, he announced. Then he stood and left the room.
The gamble worked. "I got a phone call about 11 p.m. that night," Barber said, "and the deal closed."