Risk Game Reviewed

Francis J. Greenburger

(with Rebecca Paley)

Risk Game

BenBella Books, 2016

304 Pages

This book is a fine read.  What one might have thought would have been a trip through real estate jargon or the behemoth ego of a self-made bazillionaire and highly successful multi-tasker, is instead a captivating and at times emotionally wrenching journey through the diverse interests of an extraordinary life.


We start off in the milieu surrounding his father Sanford Greenburger's literary agency and its attendant holdouts from the old world caught in its salon like grasp. As a young man a "child prodigy" (he understood numbers) he could not help but get caught up in the atmosphere of being exposed to personalities such as the famed bookstore magnate and political revolutionary Giancarlo Feltrinelli and the German publisher Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowholt.  So later on in the story when he is appointed to the board of the National Arts Club and says that it was because he was a literary agent - "only they didn't know I knew nothing about literature"-  Who is he kidding? ... He knows precisely how to tell a good story and how to hold a reader's interest. He was exposed to that world and he kept his father's business alive.   He succeeds on almost every level as an agent, as a builder, as a philanthropist, as an observer of life and other people and famously as the "Co-op king of New York",  who offered countless tenants an avenue for keeping their own apartments and turning them into wealth rather than throwing their money away on rent.  He also takes us through the hey day of his agency and its' dealings with among others; Stephen King, James Patterson, Dan Brown, George Bach and Nicholas Sparks.

Of course, they say "the unexamined life is not worth living" and with Greenburger assessing his failures and shortfalls as well as his successes the volume measures up. It triumphs in that it comes through as being real, he takes on challenges and personality clashes with honesty and sometimes admits his own shortcomings.  He explains to us the why behind hs philanthropic projects; Art Omi and The Francis Greenburger Center for social and Criminal Justice.  He then goes deep to speak of the death of one son and the incarceration of another.  Meanwhile; he fills us in on the story of how his real estate empire fared between 911, the mortgage crisis and hurricane Sandy.  Indeed there are a couple of contextual mixups or the wrong wording here and there, but, this is a great read which will empower you through being able to see through eyes of one who who is seemingly able to see clearly through all (no matter what the weather).

At this time it is apropos to mention Greenburger as a stark contrast to Donald Trump (who makes a couple of cameos in the book) in that here is a man of social conscience who thinks about his place in the world and when it is his time to say that the buck stops in taking personal responsibility for his actions as he expects others to do so as well. Finally the author stops to thank all the mentors in his life from his father to Ledig-Rowholt, to Milton Newmark and Charles Benenson in real estate, to Hilary Clinton in her approach to politics and her listening tours which inspired him in his pursuit to improve the criminal justice system.