Financial Career

Excerpt from They Made America
By Sir Harold Evans
Little, Brown & Company, 2004

They Made AmericaMICHAEL MILKEN (1946- ): "Some 400 million cellphone users owe Milken a call - to thank him for the very industry he virtually created. He found the money to do that as he had found the money to reenergize American home building in the '70s, install a network of fiber-optic lines for cable television and the Internet, set off an explosion in more efficient alternatives to public health care facilities and generally liberate the creative energies of thousands of people who were frustrated by the old-boy network of finance - Ted Turner and CNN among them. Milken was a youth from Los Angeles who got a job in a New York investment bank in 1969 and catapulted the bank from obscurity to the front rank by his brilliantly researched mobilization of high-yield junk bonds. He raised the capital to start new firms whose only collateral was a cache of unbankable innovative ideas, and to restructure inert ones that had been given up for dead by Wall Street. He was a democratizer of capital. Milken went to jail for 22 months. Does a jailbird deserve to be in a roll of honor? The dissection of the case by Daniel Fischel, a professor of law at the University of Chicago (Payback, HarperBusiness, 1995), suggested he was the scapegoat for the savings and loan fiasco. Milken was not guilty of insider trading. He was punished for minor technical violations that had never been prosecuted before and have never been prosecuted since. Jesse Kornbluth (in Highly Confident, William Morrow, 1992) writes, "It is difficult to comprehend the evil in his genius when the court that sentenced him finds that his economic damage is less than $320,000." Milken devotes his life to philanthropy - not as a penance but a mission begun in the early '70s when his wife's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Milken Family Foundation, established in 1982, works innovatively with 1,000 organizations around the world."