Net Worth: $600 million
Source of Wealth: Junk bonds
Michael Milken is, of course, the junk-bond wunderkind of the 1980s, whose imprisonment six years ago was seen as the legal denouement of a debt-fueled, go-go decade.
Milken formed the Beverly Hills office of Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. in 1976. The unit virtually became Drexel in the 1980s, and was at the center of the junk bond world. The lower-grade paper was underwritten, and traded, at Milken's famed X-shaped desk.
Besides serving time as a securities felon, Milken paid $900 million to the government, creditors and other litigants, and was barred from the securities industry for life.
Now Milken, like junk bonds, is back: He left prison after 22 months (he was sentenced to 10 years), became active in numerous Southern California civic and charitable circles especially related to education and founded the Milken Institute for Jobs & Capital Formation in Santa Monica.
He developed prostate cancer following his release from the federal pen; the cancer is now believed to be in remission. Milken speaks occasionally at the Milken Institute, and looks healthy, relaxed and confident. He no longer doffs a toupe.
But Milken may yet have his toes in hot water: The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether he violated his lifetime bar from the industry by advising certain corporate chieftains.
His net worth remains the source of ceaseless speculation. Despite the enormous government fine, Milken still has considerable holdings and has been involved in a number of investments. His consulting work with Ted Turner and Time-Warner alone netted $50 million.
Benjamin Mark Cole
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