HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Duff McDonald

Acclaimed Business Journalist & Bestselling Author


  • The MBA, Business Schools, Harvard Business School
  • Wall Street & Finance
  • Management Consulting
  • The Nature of Influence and the Perils of Unintended Consequences
  • Reputation: How It’s Earned, Used, Exploited, and Destroyed
  • Investigative Journalism


New York
More Media

Duff McDonald is a New York-based journalist and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Firm: The Story of McKinsey & Its Secret Influence on American Business (2013). He is also the author of Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase (2009), and the co-author of The CEO (2005), a satire.

In Spring 2017, McDonald’s newest title, The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite (HarperBusiness), will debut.

In this riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, McDonald reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School. Throughout The Golden Passport, McDonald explores the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and powerful force for more than a century. At a time of pronounced economic disparity and political unrest, this hard-hitting yet balanced portrait offers a much-needed look at an entity that has had — and will continue to have — a profound influence on the shape of modern society and all our lives.

The Firm could be considered a prequel to The Golden Passport. In his 2013 book, McDonald showed just how, in becoming an indispensable part of decision-making at the highest levels, consulting giant McKinsey & Co. played its own significant role in setting the course of American capitalism. McDonald uncovered how these high-powered, high-priced business savants have ushered in waves of structural, financial, and technological shifts to the biggest and best corporate, government, and philanthropic organizations, both in the U.S. and beyond. With unrivaled access to company documents and current and former employees, McDonald revealed the inner workings of what just might be the most influential private organization in America. The Golden Passport merely picks up the thread in pulling back the covers on the most influential business school in the world.

McDonald is a contributing editor at The New York Observer, where he writes Up & Down The Street, a column on Wall Street and finance. He has also written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York, Esquire, Fortune, Business Week, Conde Nast Portfolio, GQ, WIRED, Time, Newsweek, and others. In 2004, he was the recipient of two Canadian National Magazine Awards—Best Business Story (gold) and Best Investigative Reporting (silver)—for Conrad’s Fall in National Post Business.

McDonald resides in New York, splitting his time between Brooklyn and the Catskills.

Praise for The Firm:

“A fascinating account of the rise of McKinsey. If you want to know what it is about the culture of the firm that sets it apart and has made it so successful, read this book.”
--Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance

“In this highly readable history, Duff McDonald brings us deep inside one of the smartest and most important firms doing business today – a place where no other journalist has taken us before. With his straightforward storytelling and thoughtful analysis, McDonald demystifies the secrets behind McKinsey’s successes and offers concrete lessons on changing companies and practices for the better.”
-- Jamie Dimon

“In his superb examination of one of the most powerful, secretive, and least understood organizations on the planet, Duff McDonald finally solves the mystery, in elegant prose, of how McKinsey can be well known without anyone knowing anything about it. Thanks to McDonald, now we do.”
--William D. Cohan, bestselling author of The Last Tycoons, House of Cards, and Money and Power

"Duff McDonald’s new book about the people who built McKinsey, the consulting firm that has quietly influenced American business for decades, explains the firm’s tremendous accomplishments—and its equally stunning failures. As McDonald shows, the firm’s greatest success may well be itself. This is critical reading for anyone who wants to understand how the world of business really works.”
--Bethany McLean, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller All the Devils Are Here

“McDonald has written the definitive history of McKinsey, and through McKinsey of the entire multibillion-dollar industry that is management consulting. It’s a heartbreaking tale of wasted talent.”
--Felix Salmon, finance blogger, Reuters

“Timely.… A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“Revealing… McDonald combines a lucid chronicle of McKinsey’s growth and boardroom melodramas.”
--Publishers Weekly

Praise for The Golden Passport:</

“[A] richly reported indictment of the school as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country....in example after example, Mr. McDonald sets out his thesis that money and influence have distorted both the school’s curriculum and the worldview espoused by its professors.”
— Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times

“This is serious history, broad in its sweep and meticulous in the detail.”
— Wall Street Journal

“Duff McDonald’s The Golden Passport is the detailed story of Harvard Business School (HBS) that, willingly marinated in corporate money and influence, prepares each generation of “modern” corporate tycoons. HBS, while alert to shaping the latest management techniques, is largely indifferent to the ongoing corporate crime wave and other criminogenic behavior and externalities corrosive of fundamental civic values and economic equities. Readers can bury their noses in this prodigious tome and come away with a stench of affluent decadence.”
— Ralph Nader

“The Golden Passport is a tour-de-force about one of our nation’s most important and enduring symbols of capitalism. Whether you aspire to attend Harvard Business School or you disdain it for its disproportionate influence on Wall Street and in the executive suites of our major corporations, McDonald’s investigative-reporting masterpiece is a must read.”
— William D. Cohan, New York Times bestselling author of House of Cards

“The Golden Passport isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time that pointed criticism has been aimed at the Harvard Business School, but it is certainly the most thorough to date. The story McDonald tells isn’t a simplistic one. Rather, he argues that the analytical modus operandi of Harvard-trained MBAs has damaged not just particular companies, but the very fabric of society itself. It’s a convincing and important call for change.”
— Bethany McLean, co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room

Duff McDonald’s Golden Passport is a magisterial history of Harvard Business School and much more. It provides a powerful lens into the intellectual underpinnings and pragmatic failures of American business and American capitalism writ large.
— Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class

“Exploring how Harvard Business School became a ticket to the highest echelons of money, power, and influence, McDonald (The Firm) chronicles the school’s history in an irreverent, cynical, and frequently funny exposé of its pretensions...refreshingly substitutes skepticism for reverence, questioning the limits of business education and of capitalism in general.”
— Publishers Weekly

“A massively detailed history of Harvard Business School since its founding in 1908 and a searing critique of the school’s impact on American capitalism…..McDonald’s deep research into the 100-plus years of HBS-the faculty members, the courses offered, many of the students-is undoubtedly impressive.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“McDonald’s reporting highlights the school’s influence, such as detailing how HBS helped the U.S. win WWII by marrying mathematics and statistics to war strategy, and also how HBS helped define and establish the foundations of managerial knowledge in the country and put American management at the forefront of global business. ”
— Booklist

“In McDonald’s hands this history of the Harvard Business School, its successes and failures, misdeeds and misapprehensions, becomes a window into the increasingly corrupted soul of mercantile America.”
— The Globe and Mail