Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review: Allan Hubbard: Man Out of Time, by Virginia Green



The Allan Hubbard Bio, Allan Hubbard: Man Out of Time by Virginia Green, is really a case of two different stories.

The first story is about Allan Hubbard's life before his recent catastrophic business failures and the second story is about the aforementioned business failure.

Pre financial collapse Green gives us the story of Allan Hubbard and it is a riveting, compelling account of his life, with an almost Waltons/Disney type way of story telling that sounds too good to be true and there appears no reason as to why it wouldn't be. Allan Hubbard the son of a poor family and hopeless drunk of a dad, Allan the young scaly wag, Allan the hard worker, Allan the virtuous accountant, Allan the philanthropist and many other parts of his long productive life.

I am particularly taken by Allan's ingenuity in trying to obtain coal to heat his family home during the Great Depression.

Allan and his mates used to place objects on the rail lines and the train engineer used lumps of coal to fire at the rails to remove these objects and of course Allan and his mates would then collect up their black gold.

This kind of entrepreneurial smart was a feature of his whole life.

Post financial failure though the books last two chapters and an epilogue turn the account of Allan Hubbard's life into something else entirely.

Greens bias towards Allan is clear when she repeats the often much quoted "rescue package" that was allegedly in place just days before the collapse of SCF.

This deal may have been stitched up but it involved recapitalizing SCF and included money from the taxpayer. These kinds of deals have been put forward multiple times over the last few years in relation to collapsed finance companies and none of them have been successful, in fact they have all led to further loses for investors. The most notable failure being the Hanover/Allied Farmers recapitalisation at the end of 2009.

Green perpetuates many of the myths and rumours spread around Timaru and parts of the South Island by Allan Hubbard supporters that lack basic fact and are in many cases the tall tales of individuals with axes to grind and a propensity to over-medicate or indeed stop the meds altogether.

Green gives us a mostly uncritical account of Allan Hubbard post empire collapse that just doesn't quite gel with the earlier years of his life.

She paints him the victim of others and the victim of circumstance, something that was entirely absent from the first part of the book.

Hubbard never grew up as a victim, according to Greens account of his early life, he made the best of his circumstances and blamed himself if he did wrong.

To paint Allan Hubbard as the victim in the most recent part of his life simply doesn't do justice to an individual who clearly made his way in life in his earlier years as a man with personal responsibility at the centre of his being and an inner drive to pursue the truth when it came to his personal and business relationships and who recently suffered the ignominy of being caught forging someones else's signature to gain financially.

Verdict:

Read the first 18 Chapters, they are a good read. Ditch the fiction of the last 2.


* Thanks to Sarah Thornton from Random House for supplying a review copy.


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