Ivan Frederick Boesky (born March 6, 1937) is a former American stock trader who is notable for his prominent role in a Wall Street insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States in the mid-1980s.
Early life and education
Boesky was born to a Jewish family in Detroit, Michigan. His family owned several delicatessens and bars in the city. He attended the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills before graduating from Detroit's Mumford High School. He then took courses at Wayne State University, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. Despite lacking an undergraduate degree, he was admitted to Detroit College of Law (now Michigan State University College of Law) and graduated in 1965. He was apparently admitted to the bar in Michigan. 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.
In 1962, he married Seema Silberstein, the daughter of a Detroit real estate magnate whose holdings included The Beverly Hills Hotel in California. After his father-in-law’s death, Boesky and Seema won a court battle with her sister and brother-in-law over the hotel’s ownership.
In 1966, Boesky and his wife moved to New York where he worked at several brokerage houses. In 1975, he opened his own firm, the Ivan F. Boesky & Company, with $700,000 (equivalent to $3.1 million in 2016) in seed money from his wife’s family with a business plan of speculating on corporate takeovers. Boesky's firm grew from profits as well as buy-in investments from new partnerships. By 1986, Boesky had become an arbitrageur who had amassed a fortune of more than US$200 million by betting on corporate takeovers and the $136 million in proceeds from the sale of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Boesky was on the cover of Time magazine December 1, 1986.
In 1987, a group of partners sued Boesky over what they claimed were misleading partnership documents. 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.
Although insider trading of this kind was illegal, laws prohibiting it were rarely enforced until Boesky was prosecuted. Boesky cooperated with the SEC and informed on others, including the case against financier Michael Milken. As a result of a plea bargain, Boesky received a prison sentence of 3 1⁄2 years and was fined US$100 million. Although he was released after two years, he was permanently barred from working in securities. He served his sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Boesky never recovered his reputation after doing his prison time, and paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and compensation for his Guinness share-trading fraud role and a number of separate insider dealing scams. Later, Boesky, who is Jewish, embraced his Judaism and even took classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he had been 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."
His involvement in criminal activities is recounted in the book Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart.
Another version of these events is recounted by Jonathan Guinness in his book Requiem for a Family Business which suggests the SEC granted him immunity from prosecution and allowed him to continue to insider trade for significant profit whilst wire tapping him to entrap others.
In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, a cousin of Boesky's disclosed that he is living in La Jolla, California.
In 1991, he divorced his wife and she agreed to pay him $23 million and $180,000 a year for life. They had four children.
In popular culture
- In the film Ocean's Eleven (2001), Brad Pitt's character, Rusty Ryan, mentions a type of confidence scam termed "a Boesky" that involves a wealthy bankroller with insider information.
- The character of Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street (1987) 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 School of Business commencement ceremony in May 1986, where he said in part "I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself".
- In the novel American Psycho (1991), Craig McDermott wins a Halloween costume party dressed as Ivan Boesky.
- Famous hacker Kevin Mitnick recollects his encounters with Boesky in prison, in his book Ghost in the Wires.
- In Gump & Co. (1995), the sequel to Winston Groom's novel Forrest Gump (1986), the protagonist Forrest Gump was hired by "Ivan Bozosky". Gump also later begins to wonder how he is able to command such a high salary for only having to sign papers.
- A 1989 issue of MAD had a spoof of baseball cards featuring celebrities, one being Boesky wearing an old-style black & white prisoner's uniform and using his ball from the "ball and chain" akin to pitching a baseball with the caption "Bats left, steals left and right". Interestingly, the issue debuted shortly before Boesky's release.
- In the musical The Wedding Singer (based on the 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie), the character Glen Guglia mentions that "Boesky bought half, and if Ivan's buying, you know it's in the money."
- In season 2 episode 18 of Gilmore Girls a member of Rory and Paris' business team shows up to the group's first business meeting at Rory's grandfather's house and exclaims (looking at the meeting setup) "I feel like Ivan Boesky".
- In an episode of Animaniacs entitled "Plane Pals" (1993), Yakko, Wakko, and Dot harass a tightly-wound Wall Street accountant named Ivan Blowsky, when he is forced to sit next to them on an airplane.
- In the episode of Futurama, "Future Stock" (2002), an 80s Wall Street character, reminiscent of Gordon Gekko, said of his glory days: "I was having whisky with Boesky and cookies with Milken."
- In Season 2, Episode 3 of Psych ("Psy vs. Psy"), the Federal Treasury agent claims to have arrested Ivan Boesky himself.
- In Robocop The Series, episode 20 Corporate Raiders, the Chairman of OCP mentions he attended the "Ivan Boesky Elementary Business School".
- 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 had bought half of the houses in Beverly Hills for $10,000 dollars apiece, and that the erstwhile owners want their houses back.
- In The Shield, Vic Mackey states that there will be a "money laundering operation which would make Ivan Boesky flinch".