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 stars James Garner as F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of R.J.R. Nabisco with plans to buy out the rest of the Nabisco shareholders. In the film, Johnson decides to take his company private after receiving advance news of the likely market failure of the company's smokeless cigarette called Premier.
Johnson's bid for the company is opposed by two of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, Henry Kravis (who is played by Jonathan Pryce), and his cousin George R. Roberts. Kravis feels betrayed when, after Johnson initially discusses doing the LBO with Kravis, he actually takes the potentially enormous deal to another firm, American Express' former Shearson Lehman Hutton division. Ted Forstmann and his Forstmann Little buyout firm also play a prominent role.
After Kravis and Johnson are unable to reconcile their differences, a bidding war ensues, which Kravis ultimately wins. Although not covered in the film, an unfortunate side effect of the greatly increased buyout price is the creation of an initially unforeseen and distinctly troubling level of debt for the company.