Michael Milken Profile

One of the wealthiest people in the world, Michael Milken has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars towards medical research, educational programs, and job creation. During the 1980s, he revolutionized the financial world and is credited by some as the key force behind expansions and reforms in private equity and venture that have propelled economic growth over the past twenty-some years.

Inspired by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Milken found it unjust that so many hardworking Americans were unable to obtain capital because of their race or background. After graduating from UC Berkley and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he headed to Wall Street where he experimented with new methods for pricing and rewarding risks more efficiently. From 1969 he paved the way for small business development, financing over 3,200 companies.

As Milken’s financial career grew, so did his philanthropic activity. Over the years he has donated over $500 million to educational initiatives through the Milken Family Fund, which includes programs such as Milken Scholars, Milken Educator Awards, and Mike’s Math Club. In the fields of medicine and public health, he and his family have contributed over $750 million to cancer research and programs aimed at prevention and awareness. Other notable organizations that he has funded include Faster Cures, which aims to speed up research by bypassing the bureaucracy that government funding faces, the Prostrate Cancer Foundation, and the nonprofit economic think tank, The Milken Institute.

Milken is profiled on several lists of top influential people, including Wharton’s 125 Influential People and Ideas, Esquire’s 75 Most Important People of the 21st century, and Institutional Investor Magazine’s Top 40 Influential People in Finance.

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    Michael Milken has always focused on disrupting—and improving—the status quo, whether in medical research, finance or education. In 1972, three years after he began a legendary Wall Street career, his mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. That began his search for medical solutions, an effort recognized in the 2004 Fortune magazine cover story “The Man Who Changed Medicine.” Fortune stressed the changes he wrought, not just the checks he 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… [He] has energized the medical establishment. Now thousands are living longer—and leaders everywhere are taking notice.”

    Milken formalized his previous philanthropy in 1982 by co-founding the Milken Family Foundation, a major force for education reform and teacher recognition and for worldwide research on such medical issues as pediatric neurology, nutrition, brain and breast cancers and leukemia. In 1995, he hosted the first Cancer Summit, an event that led to a 1998 March on Washington in support of increased funding of biomedical research. Over the five years following the March, Congress increased the resources of the National Institutes of Health from $14 billion per year to $27 billion. To date, that incremental increase represents approximately $200 billion in additional public funding above the 1998 baseline. The yield on that investment is accelerated scientific discovery that has saved, enhanced and extended millions of lives around the world. When funding increases slowed in 2003, Milken founded FasterCures, which works to remove bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to progress against all life-threatening diseases.

    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 its profound human, social and economic benefits. Senior members of Congress, from both parties, joined more than 1,000 leaders in medical and scientific research, patient advocacy, industry, philanthropy and public policy. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article on the first day of the event, Milken cited the importance of fostering basic science.

    Among other medical initiatives, Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic funder of research on that disease, and he joined with leading physicians in launching the Melanoma Research Alliance to accelerate progress against fatal skin cancers. Death rates from both these diseases have declined dramatically.

    The Milken Family Foundation’s coveted $25,000 Milken Educator Awards, called the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine, is the largest such program in the U.S. and since 1985 has honored more than 2,500 K-12 teachers and principals in partnership with state departments of education.

    Milken chairs the widely respected Milken Institute, a non-partisan economic think tank whose annual Global Conference brings 3,500 thought leaders and decision makers from 50+ nations to Los Angeles.

    As a financier, Milken revolutionized capital markets by pricing and rewarding risk more efficiently. This democratized capital by expanding access for smaller companies. A Washington Post column said he “helped create the conditions for America’s explosion of wealth and creativity,” a process Business Week said “shook America’s defeatist Establishment out of its gloom.” Starting in 1969, he financed more than 3,200 companies that created millions of jobs. An article in The New York Times 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.”

    Mike (what everyone calls him) graduated from Berkeley with highest distinction and earned his MBA from the Wharton School, where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow. Mike and his wife Lori, who have three children and eight grandchildren, have been married since 1968. Esquire magazine listed him among “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.”

Michael Milken Speaking Videos

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Michael Milken's Speech Descriptions

Topics Include:

    • Recapturing The American Dream
    • Leadership in Turbulent Times
    • Toward a More Prosperous Future
    • Things That Will Change the World

What People are Saying about Seeing Michael Speak

Rating Entries

“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 talent.”
    David Brooks, New York Times columnist

“I’ve been able to dine with presidents, with leaders of corporations (and I’ve) traveled for 14 years with financier and philanthropist Michael Milken, who has taught me so much about life.”
    Tommy Lasorda, legendary Major League Baseball manager

“Mike is someone I have admired for…his drive to help make the world a better place.”
    Michael Moe, NeXt Advisors Co-founder

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