Inside the life of one of Trump’s latest pardonees, Michael Milken – Business Insider
  • President Trump pardoned Michael Milken, the „junk bond king,“ on February 18.
  • Milken was an innovator of the use of riskier high-yield bonds, or „junk bonds,“ which paid a higher interest rate than standard investment-grade bonds because of their lower credit ratings that stemmed from a perceived higher risk.
  • A superstar on Wall Street in the 1980s, Milken was indicted on charges of insider trading in 1989. He ultimately pleaded guilty to six felony charges of securities fraud and spent 22 months in prison.
  • Milken became a philanthropist after getting out of prison and donated money to cancer research after his own diagnosis in 1993. Even though he was given 18 months to live at the time, he made a full recovery.
  • Trump commented on Milken’s pardon, saying, „He paid a big price, paid a very tough price. But he’s done an incredible job.“ Press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the charges against him „truly novel.“
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On February 18, President Donald Trump granted clemency to seven people who had been convicted of white-collar crimes and commuted the sentences of four others.

Michael Milken, a prominent philanthropist and former Wall Street financier, known in the 1980s as the „junk bond king,“ was among those pardoned. He spent several decades building a prominent career before being indicted on insider trading charges and spending 22 months in prison.

In the 1990s and afterward, Milken has donated significant amounts to charity and currently has a net worth of $3.7 billion. Take a look inside his life.


Born to Jewish parents in California, Milken is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He’s married to his high school sweetheart.

Foto: Michael Milken (L) with his wife Lori (R).sourceRon Galella, Ltd./ Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Bloomberg


After graduating from Wharton, he started working at Drexel Burnham Lambert, where his work popularizing the use of high-yield bonds, popularly known as „junk bonds,“ transformed Drexel into one of the largest banks on Wall Street. Drexel filed for bankruptcy in 1990, shortly after Milken’s conviction; it is now defunct.

Foto: Milken with Henry Kissinger (R).sourceRon Galella, Ltd. / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


At Drexel Burnham, Milken provided funding to companies that had previously been unable to secure funding through standard investment-grade bonds. Neither junk bonds nor leveraged buyouts were invented in the 1980s, but Milken was a key figure in expanding their use on Wall Street during the decade.

Foto: Milken at a talk.sourceJohn T. Barr / Getty

Source: The Balance, Investopedia


Milken helped provide funding to news industry pioneers like Ted Turner, founder of CNN; Rupert Murdoch, founder of News Corp; and Craig McCaw, a cell phone industry entrepreneur.

Foto: Milken with Ted Turner (R) in 2007.sourceRobyn Beck/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Milken also provided U.S Senator Mitt Romney with $300 million in funding he needed to launch the private equity firm Bain Capital in the ’80s.

Foto: Mitt Romney.sourceMatthew Stockman / Getty

Source: Politico


One of the many businessmen to get in on the junk-bond fun in the go-go ’80s was President Trump, who issued almost $700 million in junk bonds with a 14% interest rate to finish construction on his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Foto: Trump outside his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.sourceBettmann / Getty Images

Source: New York Times


Milken’s ’80s-era heyday coincided with the emergence of a new breed of investors on Wall Street, many of whom are still active today, such as Carl Icahn and Ronald Perelman.

Foto: Ronald Perelman.sourceTerry Ashe / Getty Images


At one point, Milken’s compensation amounted to $500 million in one year and more than $1 billion over a four-year stretch.

Foto: Milken with his wife.sourceRick Maiman / Getty Images

Source: New York Times


Milken’s compensation was brought up when then-U.S. Prosecutor Rudy Giuliani charged Milken with „racketeering, insider trading, and securities fraud.“ Milken pleaded guilty to six charges, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served just short of two years and paid over $1 billion in penalties.

Foto: Michael Milken outside Manhattan Federal District Court House in 1990.sourceRon Galella, Ltd./ Getty Images

Source: LA Times


After Milken was released from prison, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993 and was told he had roughly 18 months to live.

Foto: Milken in 1994.sourceW. A. Funches Jr./New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC/Getty Images

Source: LA Times


Milken became a philanthropist after his release from prison. The Milken Family Foundation has donated more than $1 billion, and has raised $75 million for cancer research. Milken also launched and sits on the board of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Foto: Michael Milken at a research facility.sourceDamian Dovarganes/AP

Source: Business Insider, LA Times, Forbes


After being permanently barred from the securities industry in 1991, the SEC accused Milken of violating his lifetime ban by offering advice to Rupert Murdoch and Ronald Perelman. Milken settled the SEC complaint for $47 million in 1998; no new criminal charges were brought against him.

Foto: Rupert Murdoch.sourceRick Maiman / Getty

Source: New York Times


Milken sought a pardon from President Bill Clinton before he left office in 2001 but the move faced strong opposition from law enforcement and was, ultimately, unsuccessful.

Foto: Bill Clinton during a press conference.sourceJoyce Naltchayan/Getty

Source: WSJ


President Trump granted Milken clemency in February 2020. A statement from the White House Press Secretary highlighted his work as a philanthropist and said he pioneered industries such as wireless communications, telecommunications, and homebuilding.

Foto: Milken with President Trump in 2000.sourceDavidoff Studios/Getty Images

Source: Whitehouse.gov


The press release also named the people who supported his clemency, including some familiar figures from his career: Rupert Murdoch, and, most surprisingly, the man who brought the charges against him in 1989, Rudy Giuliani.

Foto: Rudy Giuliani.sourceAngela Weiss/Getty Images

Source: Whitehouse.gov


Commenting on his pardon, Milken said, „Lori and I, who recently celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary, along with our children and grandchildren, are very grateful to the President. We look forward to many more years of pursuing our efforts in medical research, education and public health.“

Foto: Michael Milken at a Prostate Cancer Foundation dinner.sourcePaul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Source: mikemilken.com

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