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Ivan Boesky
Born March 6, 1937 (1937-03-06) (age 72)
Detroit, Michigan

Ivan Frederick Boesky (born March 6, 1937) is an American businessman who is notable for his prominent role in a Wall Street insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid-1980s.

Life and career

Boesky was born in Detroit, Michigan to a Jewish family.[1] He attended the Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills before graduating from Detroit's Mumford High School. He then attended courses at Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. he was admitted to the Detroit College of Law, which allowed him to enroll despite having no undergraduate college degree. He graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1965.[2].[3] In the 1980s, he served as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and at New York University's Graduate School of Business.[4]

By 1986, Boesky had become an arbitrageur who had amassed a fortune of more than US$200 million by betting on corporate takeovers. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated him for making investments based on tips received from corporate insiders. These stock acquisitions were sometimes brazen, with massive purchases occurring only a few days before a corporation announced a takeover. Boesky was on the cover of TIME December 1, 1986. [5]

Although insider trading of this kind was illegal, laws prohibiting it were rarely enforced until Boesky was prosecuted.[6] Boesky cooperated with the SEC and informed, including the case against financier Michael Milken. As a result of a plea bargain Boesky received a prison sentence of 3.5 years and was fined US$100 million. Although he was released after two years, he was barred from working in the securities business for the remainder of his life.[7] He served his prison sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Boesky never recovered his reputation after doing a stint in jail, and paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and compensation for his Guinness share-trading fraud role and a host of separate insider dealing scams. In later years he embraced his Judaism strongly and even took classes related to Judaism at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he was previously a major donor; however, in 1987, following the fallout from his financial scandal, The New York Times reported that "after Ivan F. Boesky had been fined $100 million in the insider-trading scandal, the Jewish Theological Seminary, acting at his request, took his name off its $20 million library."[1]

His involvement in criminal activities is recounted in the book Den of Thieves by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James B. Stewart.

Cultural references

  • The character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street is based at least in part on Boesky, especially regarding a famous speech he delivered on the positive aspects of greed at the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, where he said in part "I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself".[8]
  • The character Charlotte, a high-stakes CEO, on Rugrats has two fish in her office named "Boesky" and "Vesco".
  • Boesky is mentioned in the episode Last Days of the television series Sliders: after an asteroid fails to destroy the Earth of the dimension they are in, Rembrandt Brown sees an article in a newspaper stating that Boesky bought all the houses in Beverly Hills for $10,000 dollars apiece and that the erstwhile owners want their houses back.
  • In the 2001 film Ocean's Eleven, Brad Pitt's character, Rusty Ryan, mentions a type of confidence scam termed "a Boesky" that involves a wealthy bankroller with insider information.


  1. ^ a b "Boesky Studying Hebrew and Talmud at Seminary" - The New York Times: ARI L. GOLDMAN - July 23, 1987
  2. ^ Stewart, James B., Den of Thieves, Simon & Schuster, 1991. Cf. p.35
  3. ^ Ulmer, Byran K., "Ivan Boesky" in Encyclopedia of White-collar & Corporate Crime, (Lawrence Salinger, editor), SAGE, 2004. Cf. p.96-97
  4. ^ Boesky, Ivan F., Merger Mania, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1985.
  5. ^ Ivan Boesky at the TIME archive
  6. ^ Article on Boesky at New York
  7. ^ Ivan Boesky Biography at
  8. ^ Battling Boeskys at TIME. Note: this is not a good reference, it does not mention the Berkeley speech.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ivan Frederick Boesky (born March 6, 1937) was a Wall Street arbitrageur notable for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid-1980s.

Den of Thieves, by John B. Stewart

  • Greed is all right, by the way. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself. [1]

"What good is the moon if you can't buy or sell it?"

"I think "immoral" is probably the wrong word to use...I prefer the word "unethical." "


  1. James B. Stewart, 1991 p.223

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