Born in Detroit in 1937, Boesky didn’t start work in finance until the ripe ol’ age of 29. Having originally begun life as a lawyer, he made an about-face and took a job as a stock analyst in 1966. He was in the industry for less than ten years when, in 1975, he used money from his father-in-laws’ real estate fortune to help start his own arbitrage firm.
Boesky specialised in betting on corporate takeovers and by 1986 he’d amassed a fortune of more than $200m. It was an open secret that he traded on inside information and, while the practice was rarely investigated by the authorities at the time, Boesky’s creative approach became too obvious to ignore. He was charged with illegal stock manipulation
by the SEC. After working with the FBI in return for leniency he received a mere $100m fine and just two years in prison.
However, it was before his arrest that he unwittingly provided inspiration for the most infamous big-screen banker of all time, Gordon Gekko. In 1986, Boesky gave a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where he said “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”. This evolved into Gekko’s “greed is good” slogan. We hope someone reminded ol’ Ivan of that when he was slammed with the $100m fine.