Ivan Boesky, convicted in 1980s Wall Street insider trading scandal, dead at 87

Ivan Boesky

Ivan Boesky, a Wall Street giant who was convicted in an insider trading scandal during the 1980s and inspired the character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” died Monday. He was 87.

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Boesky died at his California home in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, The New York Times reported. His daughter, Marianne Boesky, said he died in his sleep.

Boesky made a fortune betting on stock tips, which were often passed to him illegally in exchange for cash, the newspaper reported. He pleaded guilty to insider trading in November 1986 and was fined a then-record $100 million, according to the Times.

At the height of his wealth during the 1980s, Boesky had an estimated $3 billion to invest and had cultivated a golden touch image with investors, The Washington Post reported. Investors, unaware of Boesky’s illegal dealings, asked for a piece of the action, according to the newspaper.

Boesky became America’s best-known arbitrageur -- an investor who specialized in the buying and selling of stocks in companies that appeared to be takeover targets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

His prosecution and conviction was a coup for then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who used that case and other high-profile trials as a springboard to become mayor of New York City, according to the newspaper.

Boesky’s fine included $50 million in illegal profits and was the largest in the history of the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Wall Street Journal reported. His conviction stripped him of most of his fortune and ended his career.

Boesky claimed to sleep only two to three hours each night, the Times reported. He woke daily at 4:30 a.m. to work out before taking a limousine to his office in New York. There, he watched over an array of video terminals, news wires and stock tickers, along with a large bank of telephones, according to the newspaper.

After his conviction, Boesky served nearly two years of a three-year sentence in a California federal prison, the Post reported. He was released in 1990 from a halfway house in Brooklyn, New York, and was permanently barred from working in U.S.-based securities.

“Greed is all right, by the way,” Boesky told the graduating class in 1986 at the University of California at Berkeley, according to the Post. “I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Those words were immortalized the following year in “Wall Street,” where Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) gave his “Greed is good” speech, the Times reported.

“All that mattered to Ivan Boesky was making money,” Jeff Madrick, the author of the 2011 book, “Age of Greed,” told the newspaper in a 2019 interview. “He found a path to that and he abused it badly.”

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