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Michael Milken: Junk Bond Rogue to Philanthropist

Michael Milken: Junk Bond Rogue to Philanthropist

In the following Historyplex excerpt, you will get to know how the world's biggest junk bond trader, remarkably transformed to a cancer research and education philanthropist.
Historyplex Staff
The 1980s was "make or break" time for many American business houses. Some established monoliths of corporate America vanished, and some upstarts became the new kings. If this phenomenon had to be blamed on one man then it would be Michael Robert Milken. The Mike Milken story unfolded in America, but it had captured the attention of the entire world.
Times of Mike Milken
He wasn't like any other teenager in the San Fernando Valley, he would work longer hours than anyone else. At high school he was the prom Chairman. He made the Phi Beta Kappa. He was the youngest student in his business management class. When he grew older he was singularly responsible for bringing invincible companies such as US Steel and Gillette, to the brink of extinction.
Milken's position proceeded directly from his domination over junk bonds. Under his control they became the main source of finance for the expansion of mid-sized corporations. He had the uncanny ability to sell these junk bonds to financial institutions all over the world.
He initially started working as a trader with Drexel, but with his astounding success rate, he was allowed almost a free hand by Drexel, where he was allowed to practice his own personal freedom. One thing that grew almost as famous as Mike himself was his X-shaped desk in the center of the trading room at Drexel. At this point in time, he was the highest paid individual in the United States of America.
He began financing 'billion dollar corporate raids' on companies such as US Steel, Trans Works, Unical, Gulf, Gillette and Philips. His methods to finance these raids ranged from holding "stag parties" for brokers to bribing employees in organizations to part with critical data regarding the financials of the company.
These companies along with Wall Street and the U.S. Government retaliated. Milken was convicted with an assortment of cases against him, and a number of testimonies from former clients, associates and competitors. He was banned from securities trading for life and was given a prison sentence, which was later commuted. But the 'Mike Milken years' had transformed the US financial system forever.
It was in the midst of his seven yearlong trial that Mike Milken was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was given 12 to 18 months to live by the doctor. Rather than give up, he counterattacked. He learned everything about his disease and became a strict vegetarian, abandoning his diet of burgers and fries for steamed broccoli and soy shakes. He became a follower of the teaching methodology of the Yoga guru Deepak Chopra.
Milken had raised more than $75 million to fund cancer research projects. He also started his new venture called 'Knowledge Universe', where he has attempted to combine education, entertainment and information, to make education more easily understandable to kids. This project was an offshoot of his efforts to educate inner city kids.
The drive that he exhibited to become the king of junk bonds, is still visible. As examples, Leapfrog LLC, a maker of educational toys, and CRT Group PLC, a British information-technology training and recruiting company, can be stated. He acquired these, as well as a dozen other companies and raised their revenues drastically. CRT Group PLC, then with $80 million in revenue, has increased now to $700 million. Leapfrog LLC also was given a big push by Milken, when he roped in several of his celebrity friends to endorse its products. Its revenues grew from $17 million in 1997 to $80 million in 1999.
One thing however that hasn't changed is the Milken credo, that is
P = EFT (DHC+ESC+ERA)
''Prosperity is the sum of financial technology times the sum of human capital plus social capital plus real assets." This is something that he believes since his college days, and still regularly mentions it at guest lectures. Another thing that remains unchanged is his 15-hour workday.