Mikemilken.com » Biography
Named one of the '75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century' by Esquire magazine, Michael Milken is beginning his fifth decade of driving social change. It was in 1972, three years after Milken began a legendary career on Wall Street, when his wife told him her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. That marked the beginning of his search for medical solutions, which has played as large a role in his life as his better-known innovations in finance. Nearly 33 years after he began parallel careers in philanthropy and finance, Fortune magazine wrote, "No one had ever really pulled together the full picture of how - and how much - (Milken) has shaken up the medical establishment and saved lives." Fortune corrected that with a 2004 cover story under the headline The Man Who Changed Medicine.
In 1982, Milken formalized his previous philanthropy by co-founding the Milken Family Foundation (www.mff.org), which was to be endowed with several hundred million dollars. The Foundation has worked closely with more than 1,000 organizations around the world. Over the past three decades, it has supported extensive programs to help address difficult inner-city issues, assist families of children with cancer and build youth programs. It has also supported worldwide research on pediatric neurology, nutrition, leukemia, brain cancer and breast cancer. The MFF's most acclaimed program, the Milken Educator Awards, was established in 1985 and is now the largest teacher-recognition program in the U.S., operating in partnership with state departments of education across America. Dubbed the "Oscars of Teaching" by Teacher Magazine, it has awarded tens of millions of dollars to honor thousands of K-12 teachers and principals. Each educator receives an unrestricted $25,000 prize and participates in an annual professional-development conference.
Milken is chairman of FasterCures (www.fastercures.org), a think tank - or, as its staff calls it, an "action tank" - dedicated to accelerating cures and improving treatment outcomes for all life-threatening diseases. FasterCures, based in Washington, D.C., evaluates the entire research process, identifying barriers to progress, engages people and organizations, and proposes economic incentives and regulatory efficiencies to accelerate scientific discovery. Through Congressional testimony, conferences, reports and research, it is helping shape public policy on a broad range of health issues.Because current budget pressures threaten continued life-saving investments, Milken has called for a renewed national commitment to biomedical research. In September 2012, FasterCures hosted A Celebration of Science in Washington to honor scientific achievement and draw attention to the profound human, social and economic benefits that flow from research. Senior members of Congress, from both parties, joined more than 1,000 leaders in medical research, bioscience, patient advocacy, industry, philanthropy and public policy. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article on the opening day of the conference, Milken cited “an important role for government in fostering basic science.”
Milken also founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation (www.pcf.org), whose competitive research grants to more than 1,600 programs at 200 research centers in 20 countries make it the world's largest philanthropic source of funds for prostate cancer research. A BusinessWeek cover story surveyed Milken's "quest to cure cancer," reporting that scientists "are convinced they're close to unraveling [its] biological details. And Milken 'has done more to advance the cause' than anyone." Charles Myers, M.D., president of the American Institute for Diseases of the Prostate, says simply, "Milken revolutionized the field." The late Dominick Dunne wrote in Vanity Fair that one doctor told him Milken's support "had advanced the study of the disease by 40 years." In addition to raising hundreds of millions of dollars directly from the public for research, the PCF's advocacy has produced many times that amount in government, academic and pharmaceutical industry programs.
In his 2005 publication, Dr. Peter Scardino's Prostate Book, the eminent New York surgeon writes, "Through the Herculean efforts of Michael Milken and his dedicated colleagues at the Prostate Cancer Foundation, private research funding has made great strides...This remarkable organization with Milken at the helm has worked tirelessly and effectively to promote public awareness of the disease." In the Foreword to A Call to Action, a book documenting the history of the PCF, the former Director of the National Cancer Institute says that "few people have done more to advance the fight against serious diseases than Mike Milken." A 2004 article in Forbes said, "Prostate cancer, once a research backwater, is suddenly sexy thanks to the work of one patient: Michael Milken...'Milken is probably the single most effective layperson advocate for cancer research,' says former National Cancer Institute director Samuel Broder...(his) foundation had a crucial early role in numerous drugs." Milken has worked hard to raise awareness: In 1993, it was rare for men to get life-saving prostate-cancer screening tests; today, about 60 percent do. Partly as a result, the five-year survival rate increased from about 70% in 1993 to almost 100% today.
A 2012 article in Life Science Leader magazine said, "With its strong science-drive focus, tight research timelines and unique role as a community of academic and industry researchers, the PCF stands as a new model for other funding agencies in the life sciences."
In 2007, Milken helped launch the Melanoma Research Alliance to accelerate research progress against fatal skin cancers. Soon after, Vanity Fair magazine called Milken "a force" against disease when they listed him as part of "The New Establishment." To date, the MRA has awarded tens of millions of dollars to scores of research programs.
Summing up Milken's long involvement in medical research, CNN's Larry King told his broadcast audience, "When they cure this disease [cancer] they'll have to call it the Milken cure." But Milken's work is not limited to cancer - more than 50 disease-specific organizations, everything from Alzheimer's Disease to Vascular Cures, are part of the FasterCures network.
Milken is also chairman of the widely respected Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan economic think tank that seeks to create a more-informed public, more-thoughtful policymaking and improved economic conditions. The Institute's research areas include global capital markets, regional and demographic studies, human capital and job creation, access to capital, intellectual property studies, health economics, energy security and enhanced understanding of economic issues. Institute scholars have held dozens of major conferences and published hundreds of influential books, monographs and research reports. More than 3,000 thought leaders and decision makers from some 50 nations attend the Institute's annual Global Conference in Los Angeles. For more information, see www.globalconference.org. (The Institute also holds major annual conferences in London and Singapore.)
Speaking at the 15th annual Global Conference in 2012, former President Bill Clinton said:
A 2008 study by Weber Shandwick said the Global Conference is "one of the most sought-after speaking engagements in the world."
Conferenza, a leading newsletter covering executive conferences, called the Global Conference a "must-attend event for companies on the leading edge of medical research and innovation in delivery of medicine and healthcare on a global basis." It further noted that "like the World Economic Forum at Davos, it was impossible to walk away from the Global Conference without a better understanding of the problems plaguing our world. Unlike Davos, however, there was a strong focus at the event on actually trying to come up with ways that many of these problems can be solved, and some steps in 'real time' to facilitate doing so." Following the 10th anniversary Global Conference in 2007, a comment in Conferenza read:
Following the 2011 Global Conference, an article in RedHerring magazine said that "the event deserves its reputation as one of the most amazing platforms of the year. Hard economics and financial matters, public policy and trade, the role of China and Asia stand among the global-shaping topics addressed by the conference's cadre of exceptional speakers. In less than a few years, the Milken Institute Global Conference has truly become the place to be."
Barron's calls the Global Conference "the equivalent of a three-day university with multiple seminars every hour." The Los Angeles Times adds, "the conference is about expanding minds as well as wallets." The New York Times called it "Davos with Palm trees."
As a financier, Milken is often said to have revolutionized modern capital markets, making them more efficient, dynamic and democratic by expanding access to capital for thousands of smaller companies. This financed much of the early growth of cable television, homebuilding, cellular phones and other industries. In a 2004 speech, Sir Harold Evans, author of the book, They Made America, said, "Michael Milken is a formidable innovator and we'll all be in his debt for a long time." In The New York Times, author Charles Morris wrote that Milken "helped blow away a corporate old boy network that had proved unable to cope with competitive challenges from Asia and Europe." Without this, wrote Morris, "it is hard to imagine how America could have become the lean, mean, competitive machine that dominated the industrial world of the 1990s." A Washington Post column said Milken "helped create the conditions for America's explosion of wealth and creativity" in the late 20th century, a process that BusinessWeek said, "shook America's defeatist establishment out of its gloom." The Sunday Times of London said, "The restructuring job started by Mike Milken has been completed by the globalisation of many markets." And Richard Lowry wrote in The National Review, "Financial innovators like Michael Milken punished inefficiency and stoked competition."
Starting in 1969, when he joined the firm that would become Drexel Burnham Lambert, Milken helped finance thousands of companies. By 1976, the financial theories he developed in the 1960s had been proven in the world's markets and now are considered mainstream. The Economist said his financial innovations "are credited with fueling much of America's rampant economic growth by enabling companies with bright ideas to get the money they need to develop them." His use of equity-based securities, bonds, and hybrids to build the right capital structure for his clients helped create millions of jobs, leading a Time bureau chief to write, in 1997, "Milken was right in almost every sense." This view was echoed by a December 2001 article in The New Yorker, which concluded, "In the end, Milken was right." A Wall Street Journal editorial referred to "Mr. Milken's contribution to the explosive economic growth experienced by the U.S. in the past 20 years." Canada's Globe and Mail called it "one of the greatest achievements of modern capitalism."
Writing in the June 2005 issue of The American Spectator, the former senior economist of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, Stephen Moore, wrote: "Michael Milken and Drexel easily created more wealth for American shareholders single-handedly than all the trustbusters in American history combined."
Milken used more than 50 different types of securities in some dozen asset classes to help finance corporate growth for his clients and adapt their capital-structure needs to changing market conditions. In his book How the Markets Really Work (Crown, New York, 2002), former Harvard Business Review editor Joel Kurtzman wrote:
Unlike many recent financial institutions, Milken's organization did not use excessive leverage. Commenting in a 2008 television interview, Milken said, "There are several reasons we are in this financial crisis, but two issues have arisen periodically over the past 200 years. One is credit ratings, which don't necessarily reflect credit risk. Second is the false belief that you can build a successful financial business through leverage instead of through unleveraged spreads. Hundreds of companies were rated triple-A that actually were never triple-A quality. But their ratings enabled the leverage that created the problem. People got comfortable with the rating rather than doing their own homework on credit quality."
Milken's most important work was financing entrepreneurs who had good ideas for building companies that became engines of job creation. Based on his studies during the 1960s and his practical experience in the early 1970s, he was determined to focus, first, on cash flow rather than reported earnings; and second, to consider human capital part of the balance sheet. He played this out by backing such pioneers as Bill McGowan (telecommunications), Ted Turner (cable television), Craig McCaw (cellular telephones), Steve Wynn (resorts), Len Riggio (book retailing) and Bob Toll (homebuilding) among many other leaders of the 3,000+ companies he financed. They earned Milken's respect and backing because they had greater vision than the risk-averse managers who historically had counted on banks for financing. When banks ran into problems in the 1970s and turned off the capital spigot, Milken stepped forward and made capital available for thousands of dynamic, growing companies that created jobs and shareholder value. This was an epic decision that helped make the U.S. economy the envy of the world in the last quarter of the 20th century. A 2008 New York Times article said, "Mr. Milken helped create a new generation of companies and an entirely new way to finance nascent ideas that have helped fuel the global economy."
Milken and his colleagues created what is today a major part of the structure of global finance based on their innovations in the 1970s. These innovations - now taken for granted and taught in business schools worldwide - powered job growth in America for a quarter century and are now moving around the world through the efforts of the Milken Institute.
In 1989, the government charged Milken with securities/reporting violations in a case that continues to engender controversy. He admitted conduct that resulted - during a brief period in his 20 years on Wall Street - in five violations. Although such conduct had never before (nor has since) been prosecuted criminally - a fact rarely mentioned in press reports - he resolved the case without a trial to prevent further impact on his family. After paying a $200 million fine and serving a one-year-and-10-month sentence, he resumed his philanthropic work.
Milken graduated from Birmingham High School, a Los Angeles public school, where he was on the basketball, tennis and track teams, and was president of the Service Honor Society. Foretelling his future charitable initiatives, he was presented a city of Birmingham civic award for greatest service to the community. He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with highest honors. Milken received his master's degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where he was a Joseph Wharton fellow. He has received honorary degrees from business and medical schools; he writes frequently about public policy issues in major publications; and he is a widely sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. He and his wife, Lori, have three children and eight grandchildren and have been married since 1968.
Milken has been welcomed by heads of state around the world, including five U.S. presidents (Obama, G.W. Bush, Clinton, G.H.W. Bush and Carter) and the leaders of the United Kingdom, Russia, Georgia, Israel, Singapore and Mexico.
Mike and Lori Milken have joined with Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in The Giving Pledge, which commits them to give the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes during their lifetimes. Read their pledge letter.
Summing up the reason for Milken's profound impact in multiple fields, New York Times columnist David Brooks said (on CNN, April 24, 2011), "I was with Michael Milken recently and he's one of those guys who just soaks you in. He just wants to learn everything from every single person he meets. That is a pretty valuable trait."
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