26) Michael Milken (up arrow)
Source of Wealth: Investments, educational products
Net Worth: $800 million
Last Year's Rank: 30
Background: Attended UC Berkeley and went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School where he was the first person to graduate with a 4.0. Hired out of school by Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., he went on to wheel and deal billions in the high-yield securities business. Pleaded guilty to six felony counts of securities fraud and spent nearly two years in prison. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, doctors gave him between a year and 18 months to live. Now in full remission, he donates millions of dollars to prostate cancer research. With younger brother Lowell and Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, Milken founded Knowledge Universe LLC, which does everything from make educational toys to offer consulting services and work training.
Money Track: As a trader with Drexel, Milken pulled in astonishing amounts of money upwards of $500 million during his heyday. His personal fortune has been tempered by the $47 million paid in fines last year to settle charges that he improperly took part in business deals during his parole. Looks to score big with his new education venture. Knowledge Universe's annual revenue just topped $1.4 billion.
Buzz: The poster boy for 1980s excess has a new outlook on life. While his determination to succeed in business is as fierce as ever, he has turned to meditation and yoga for relaxation. Once a fast-food junkie, he now follows a strict vegetarian diet that's heavy on soy products. Wrote a cookbook called "The Taste for Living" with personal chef Beth Ginsberg. In person, very inquisitive and very cerebral. Has a way of inserting economic models into conversations. Knowledge Universe's big test will come in the months ahead with Nextera Enterprises Inc., an affiliated education consulting firm, having gone public last week. On its first day of trading, May 18, Nextera closed at $8.94 a share, down 11 percent from its $10 initial offering price.
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