What Will Pardoned Financier Michael Milken Do Now?

“I’m not sure he’s as into the dealmaking as he used to be,” Eric Schiffer, CEO of The Patriarch Organization, tells TheWrap

Now that financier Michael Milken has received a pardon from President Donald Trump that wipes clear his 1989 conviction on conspiracy and fraud charges, can we expect that the man who helped popularize the “greed is good” ethos of the 1980s will return to billion-dollar deal-making?

Apparently not. Several insiders told TheWrap that Milken shows no signs of jumping back into the business fray post-pardon. Milken, who this week returned from a trip to South Africa to explore expanding the availability of advanced medical therapies, instead remains focused on philanthropic projects such as funding cancer research, education and improving distressed communities.

“He has absolutely no interest in or plans to return to a financial business,” Milken’s senior adviser Geoffrey Moore told TheWrap. “He will not give up on his lifetime crusade to find cures for cancer and other life-threatening diseases until those health threats are defeated. He works around the clock through multiple nonprofit organizations to address the world’s greatest challenges in the fields of medical research, education and public health.”

Eric Schiffer, CEO of The Patriarch Organization and chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, added, “Now he spends a lot of time just traveling and going to baseball games. I’m not sure he’s as into the deal-making as he used to be.”

Despite Tuesday’s presidential pardon, Milken still faces a lifetime ban from securities industry work handed down by Securities and Exchange Commission. (Milken, who pleaded guilty to six counts of securities law violations in 1989 and paid $600 million in fines, served about two years of a 10-year prison sentence.)

But Moore said Milken had no interest in returning to securities work even if the ban should be lifted. He certainly has no need for additional funds. Just this month, Forbes estimated that his net worth was $3.8 billion.

A spokeswoman for the SEC did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Often referred to as the junk bond king, Milken was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the early ’90s while serving his prison term. Milken has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars to fund medical research, education and efforts to help disadvantaged children. His philanthropy, according to The White House, has been influential in the fight against prostate cancer and has been credited with saving many lives.

Jail changed him, Milken has previously told crowds who gathered to hear him speak.

He hasn’t always remained clear of leaving his thumbprint on business deals in the past, however. In 1996, he helped negotiate Time Warner’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Ted Turner’s CNN, for which he took home a $50 million consulting fee. Two years later, Milken was forced to pay $47 million to settle a SEC complaint that claimed, by offering financial advice to financiers Rupert Murdoch and Ron Perelman, he violated the order barring him from the securities industry for life.

As part of the settlement Milken neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations that he had violated the 1991 order. And federal prosecutors decided against bringing new criminal charges against Milken.

He told Forbes at the time: “Have I provided consulting that a McKinsey might provide in terms of ideas or strategic planning? Yes… There was no quid pro quo.”

According to a individual close to Milken, he also “tiptoed” a relationship with Guggenheim Partners, which led a group to buy the Dodgers in 2012 and have been the main underwriter for the Milken Institute Global Conference for many years.

Milken invested his own money, which the government investigated in 2013. 

Milken has a congregation of admirers and friends in the business and financial communities. He’s credited with pioneering the use of high-yield bonds in corporate finance, which helped expand access to capital for emerging companies. It also helped make him a billionaire.

According to an individual who spent time with Boehly at Milken events, former Guggenheim president Todd Boehly would often say, “Mike was the greatest man in his life and in America — on a level of Thomas Edison.”

Schiffer also spent time at such events, waiting his turn in a group of ambitious financiers to speak to Milken. “One day he said, ‘Eric, today’s your lucky day,'” Schiffer said. “I’ve known Mike for 15 or 20 years. He’s always been sort of a visionary.”

Milken still has his critics. Milken and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart have had their spats over the years in the pages of the New York Times. “So much for the rule of law, already under siege by the Trump administration, and the notion that no one, no matter how rich or powerful, is above it,” Stewart, now a columnist, wrote for the Times following Milken’s pardon.

Milken’s past aside, he seems to have largely put public business dealings in the rearview. According to the individual close to Milken, he now divides his days among medical research and his school of public health, his American Dream Center and his own private investments and private ownerships.

“I do not think one minute of Mike’s life, time and efforts will change because of this pardon,” the individual said.

Sharon Waxman contributed to this report. 

Trey Williams

Trey Williams

Film Reporter covering the biz • trey.williams@thewrap.com • Twitter: @trey3williams



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