GREENSPAN
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP file
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has 8 million more reasons to celebrate his 80th birthday Monday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/7/2006 6:53:11 PM ET 2006-03-07T23:53:11

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan signed a deal Thursday to publish his memoirs Tuesday in a deal reportedly worth more than $8 million, which would make it one of the richest in history.

Penguin Press won out in an auction among about a dozen publishers and plans to publish the as-yet-untitled book in 2007.

“It is a singular honor for The Penguin Press to publish Alan Greenspan, who has spent his extraordinary career reckoning with how the world really works,” Penguin President and Publisher Ann Godoff said in a statement. “His book will be about what we can know, what we can’t know and what we should do about it.”

Penguin did not release financial details, but publishing industry sources said bids had topped $8 million.

That would rank it among the biggest up-front payments ever, although well short of the $12 million Random House reportedly paid former President Bill Clinton for “My Life,” and the $8 million Simon & Schuster paid to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Penguin did not say whether Greenspan, well-known for his often-cryptic pronouncements in more than 18 years in office, would use a ghostwriter to help make his ideas more accessible to the general public.

A book proposal published by The New York Times this week had the earmarks of Greenspan's sometimes-maddening style as he hinted that he might be ready to dish dirt on the dozens of powerful people he has met in his long Washington career.

“I do not intend to dwell on personality aberrations, except as they affect policy decision-making — which, of course, always involves personalities," Greenspan said in the book treatment.

The proposal opens with an anecdote about the Sept. 11 attacks, which occurred while Greenspan was flying from Zurich to Washington, and promises that the book will discuss Greenspan's opposition to economic protectionism, his explanation of the “conundrum” of long-term interest rates and his view that China will play a major role in the global economy.

Greenspan, who turned 80 Monday, will also suggest that the divide between Republicans and Democrats has become so large that a well-financed independent candidate will emerge in either 2008 or 2012, the Times reported.

Greenspan’s deal is perhaps the most lucrative ever for a business books, ranking above former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch’s “Jack: Straight From the Gut,” and an upcoming authorized biography of billionaire Warren Buffett, both reportedly worth at least $7 million.

Greenspan's deal was negotiated by Washington-based attorney Robert Barnett, who has already negotiated some of publishing’s biggest contracts including the memoirs of both Clintons.

“Alan Greenspan sat at the top of one of most important institutions for 18-1/2 years,” Barnett said. “He saw all the major events. He met all the major players. He was involved in all the significant debates.”

Greenspan retired at the end of January after becoming a household name for playing a key role in America’s record economic expansion of the 1990s. A symbol of integrity while in office, he raised eyebrows on Wall Street for speaking on the economy at private events just a week after leaving the central bank, charging more than $100,000 per appearance for his musings on the U.S. economy.

While Greenspan made global headlines for his economic views, it remains to be seen whether he can produce a page-turning read after years in a job where he appeared to speak in extraordinarily cryptic financial terms.

Among Greenspan’s best-known proclamations was his 1996 suggestion that the stock market might be suffering from "irrational exuberance.” While that phrase went down in history, it was buried in a rambling, 4,000-word speech.

Greenspan was nominated and renominated by Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush and also served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. While he enjoyed strong bipartisan support, the the occasional critics said he was too political.

As his influence grew, Greenspan was called upon to advance opinions on matters beyond the realm of monetary policy. Not only did he lend support to President Bush’s tax cuts, but eight years earlier he blessed President Clinton’s tax increases to deal with troubling budget deficits.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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