Detroit Native Ivan Boesky, a Symbol of Greed Who Was Convicted of Insider Trading, Dies at 87

May 20, 2024, 2:28 PM

Ivan Boesky

Wealthy financier Ivan Boesky, a Detroit native and graduate of Mumford High School and Detroit College of Law, who became a disgraced symbol of Wall Street greed, and ended up in prison for insider trading, died Monday at age 87 in La Jolla, Calif. 

Many believe he was the model for Gordon Gekko, the greedy character played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone's 1987 film "Wall Street." 

Boesky was raised by parents Helen and William Boesky. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, according to an obit in the New York Times, who operated delicatessens.

At 13, he drove an ice cream truck without a license. For one year, he attended Crankbrook, then eventually graduated from Mumford High School whose alum include film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Jemele Hill, a sports writer for The Atlantic and Detroit criminal defense attorney Steve Fishman. 

He attended Wayne State, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan, but graduated from none. In 1964, after dropping out twice, he got a law degree from the Detroit College of Law.

His marriage in 1962 to Seema Silberstein, daughter of Ben Silberstein, a real estate developer who owned the Beverly Hills Hotel, suddenly thrust him into a world of wealth and sophistication, the New York Times writes.

At age 27, he moved to New York to work for an investment firm. His father-in-law bought the couple a Park Avenue Apartment.

Boesky got in trouble for insider trading in the 1980s and was indicted by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani. 

In 1986, delivering the commencement address to the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley, Boeskysaid, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."

That same year, the wealthy Boesky pleaded guilty to insider trading, which resulted in a 3 1/2 year sentence and a $100 million fine. He served two years.

His cooperation with federal authorities  "led to the collapse of Michael Milken’s junk-bond empire and the end of the frenzied debt-fueled takeovers that grabbed headlines and upended most every industry. It also marked a decade that became synonymous with unbridled ambition and even greed," the Wall Street Journal reports. 

The Journal goes on to report:

For much of the 1980s, Boesky was America’s wealthiest and best-known arbitrageur, enjoying a fortune thanks to successful bets on the shares of takeover candidates, both rumored and real, usually before the deals took place. His downfall was both abrupt and shocking, revealing to the public how pervasive insider trading was in the financial world, especially among some of the most prominent and wealthy investors.

Boesky’s prosecution was a high-profile coup for then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who parlayed it and other cases into a successful campaign for mayor of New York. Boesky’s $100 million fine, which included $50 million in illegal profits, was the largest in Securities and Exchange Commission history. It stripped the then-49-year-old of most of his fortune and ended his career. Eventually, regulators would embrace new rules to try to restrict insider trading and create a more even playing field for investors.

Read more:  New York Times

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