The one-time Junk Bond King was always closely aligned with Hollywood and directly contributed to the rise of Big Media’s infotainment monopoly by plotting the corporate mergers that became today’s Viacom and Time Warner. Now I’m hearing from sources that current-day philanthropist Michael Milken is “spending a bundle” trying to get George W Bush to pardon him by January 20th. My insiders say the amount is in the seven figures to highly connected consultants and attorneys. It’ll be interesting in today’s climate of economic crisis to see whether Bush succumbs to this influence peddling for Milken who was the poster boy for Wall Street greed in the 1980s. The argument for doing it appears to be this: that Milken, as a reformed and repentant Wall Street executive, is the hope that society can hold for the Madoffs and Skillings of today that they may someday further society’s needs instead of their own.
Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 as the result of an insider trading investigation. After a plea bargain, Milken admitted guilt to six securities and reporting violations and was never convicted of racketeering or insider trading. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was released after only 22 months. (The late producer/manager Bernie Brillstein told me he bought the showbiz rights to the book Predators’ Ball about the predator’s fall in order to deep-six it at Milken’s request.) Not only was Milken toppled but also the brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert where Milken (who was Ovitz’s Encino high school classmate) invented the junk bond market that helped some companies grow and enrich an elite clique of corporate CEOs. But other companies failed leaving shareholders and U.S. taxpayers on the hook for billions. Sound familiar?