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Ivan Boesky, Inspiration For ‘Wall Street’ Character Gordon Gekko, Dies At 87

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Ivan Boesky, a former Wall Street titan who later became a convict and partly inspired the 1987 Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” has died at the age of 87.

Although he denied ever saying it, contemporary reports indicated that Boesky praised the virtues of greed during a commencement speech at the University of California Berkeley in 1986.

“I think greed is healthy,” Boesky reportedly said. “You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

At that time, Boesky was regarded as a visionary in finance for his apparent knack for predicting business mergers.

By the end of 1986, Boesky had been charged with insider trading, having profited from stock bets based on illicit access to proprietary information.

Boesky was discovered to be sending literal briefcases full of cash to an insider at a major Wall Street firm in exchange for tips about acquisition activity.

Born in Detroit, Boesky moved to New York City in the mid-1960s after graduating from law school and started working on Wall Street. He eventually used money from his then-wife’s family’s estate to establish his own brokerage firm, amassing a net worth of over $200 million — nearly $1 billion in today’s terms — within a decade.

However, much of his wealth was ill-gotten, as discovered by then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani. Boesky’s fortune largely stemmed from information he received from a colleague at Drexel Burnham Lambert, one of the leading Wall Street trading firms at the time.

As part of his plea deal, Boesky cooperated with federal authorities, which led to the downfall of Drexel and implicated other key figures of the era, notably Michael Milken, the “junk bond king,” who ultimately pleaded guilty to six securities violations. (In 2020, President Donald Trump pardoned Milken).

Boesky never recovered professionally but lived a comfortable life in Southern California after a divorce settlement with his wife that included $20 million, annual payments of $180,000, and a $2.5 million California home.

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