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Other People's Money (1991) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A corporate raider threatens a hostile take-over of a "mom and pop" company. The patriarch of the company enlists the help of his wife's daughter, who is a lawyer, to try and protect the company. The raider is enamoured of her, and enjoys the thrust and parry of legal manoeuvring as he tries to win her heart.

  • Lawrence Garfield is a corporate raider known as Larry the liquidator because he buys up businesses and sells their assets. He has his eyes on a wire and cable company. He meets with Jorgensen, the company President and tells him his usual plan. Jorgensen tells him, he won't do that. So Garfield plans to challenge him for control at the next stockholder's meeting. So Jorgensen asks his step daughter, Kate, a lawyer to help. She meets with Garfield and he is enamored with her but he still sets out on his plan and a battle to see who can get the most shares ensues.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In New York City, Lawrence "Larry the Liquidator" Garfield (Danny DeVito), president of Garfield Investments, expresses his love for donuts and money, especially "other people's money." Lawrence receives daily updates from his computer, Carmen, as it tracks the rising stock value of New England Wire and Cable (NEWC).

    Meanwhile, NEWC chairman Andrew "Jorgy" Jorgenson (Gregory Peck) elicits cheers from his employees as he announces the increased value of their stock, unaware of Lawrence's plan to gain control of the company. After Lawrence arranges a visit to the NEWC plant in Seymour, Rhode Island, company president Bill Coles (Dean Jones) warns Jorgy of Lawrence's intentions. Jorgy proudly reminds Bill of the hardships his family-run business has endured since 1910, and promises to prevent its liquidation. Lawrence estimates NEWC's net value at approximately $100 million, with no debt or outstanding liabilities, then outrages Jorgy by advising him to close the failing wire-and-cable division, as it drains funds from more profitable divisions. Realizing he cannot reach an agreement with Jorgy, Lawrence proceeds with a hostile takeover.

    After the meeting with Lawrence, Jorgy's personal assistant and longtime companion, Bea Sullivan (Piper Laurie), asks her daughter, corporate attorney Kate Sullivan (Penelope Ann Miller), for advice. Kate comes from New York City and offers several innovative solutions, but Jorgy balks, believing his traditional methods and twenty percent ownership of the company are adequate protection.

    The next day, Kate goes to Lawrence's office and threatens him with a lawsuit while flirting with him. Lawrence is infatuated with Kate, and agrees to not buy NEWC stock for two weeks, until she can determine a course of action. Certain that Kate is acting in bad faith, Lawrence continues buying stock in the name of "OPM Holdings," an abbreviation for "other people's money."

    Kate advises Jorgy to buy stock through an out-of-state broker, using borrowed funds if necessary. Jorgy refuses to incur debt or take his business out of state, so he buys through a local broker using company funds. Kate returns home to find a delivery of flowers and donuts, with a note from Lawrence, asking, "Are you as hungry as I am?" In the morning, Kate confronts Lawrence with information about "OPM Holdings," declining to comment on her own treachery. After they argue their disparate views on capitalism, Kate spends the night researching Lawrence's business practices, and discovers an indictment from his past. Although the charges were dismissed on a legal technicality, Kate uses the information to place a temporary restraining order on Garfield Investments. At the office, Lawrence berates his 17 attorneys for failing to stop the injunction, then happily agrees to a dinner meeting with Kate.

    That evening, Lawrence is giddy with anticipation of Kate's visit, but uninterested in her offer to buy his NEWC stock. He counters by proposing a night of lovemaking, prompting Kate to leave. Lawrence telephones later that night, offering his shares in exchange for the wire-and-cable division, followed by an inept performance of "I'm In The Mood For Love" on his violin.

    In the morning, Kate flies to Rhode Island to consult with Jorgy, who rejects the proposal as unfair to his employees. Exasperated with Jorgy's stubbornness, Kate declares that he deserves to lose his company. Jorgy also dismisses advice from Bill Coles, who fears losing his job without compensation for his years of service.

    At Thanksgiving dinner, Jorgy and Kate agree to put the takeover to a vote at the annual shareholders' meeting in late December. During a dinner date at a Japanese restaurant, Kate convinces Lawrence to accept the deal, he realizes that they share a passion for winning, regardless of the stakes. Kate kisses Lawrence, further enticing him with the promise of making him a laughing stock among his peers.

    Later, Lawrence secretly meets with Bill Coles where he promises the disgruntled man half a million dollars for his support, but refuses Bea Sullivan's offer of $1 million to abandon the takeover. Realizing he will never see Kate again following the vote, Lawrence interrupts her date with another man to propose marriage. Although Kate is sympathetic, her silence discourages Lawrence.

    A few weeks later, shareholders gather at NEWC, while factory workers and their families picket outside in support of Jorgy. However, Jorgy believes he may lose, and expresses doubts about his ability to compete in the modern business world. He addresses the stockholders, describing Lawrence as a force of destruction, and receives a standing ovation when he states that NEWC cares more about people than money. Lawrence's address is greeted with derision, but he gradually convinces the shareholders of the company's imminent demise, and promises them a fair return on their investment. Although Lawrence wins by an overwhelming majority, he is uncharacteristically distraught and saddened over losing Kate as a result of this latest victory of his.

    In the final scene, a few weeks later, Kate telephones Lawrence with news that a Japanese automobile company has offered NEWC a long-term contract to manufacture airbags using stainless steel wire. On behalf of the employees, Kate proposes buying back the company, and makes a lunch date with Lawrence to negotiate a purchase price. Lawrence is ecstatic with anticipation and exclaims, "We're back in business!"

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