The career of Michael Milken, co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, has mirrored his three main professional passions: medical research, education and finance. In each, he has been uniquely successful in creating value.
In 1972, three years after Mike (what everyone calls him) began a legendary career on Wall Street, his wife told him her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. That was when he began a search for medical solutions that has played as large a role in his life as his better-known innovations in finance. Nearly 33 years after he began parallel careers in philanthropy and finance, a Fortune magazine cover story called him "The Man Who Changed Medicine" and said, "No one had ever really pulled together the full picture of how—and how much—(Milken) has shaken up the medical establishment and saved lives."
Mike is now recognized for his decades of driving medical research toward cures and improved treatments. He launched the Melanoma Research Alliance to accelerate research progress against fatal skin cancers, and he serves as chairman of FasterCures, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to accelerating progress against all life-threatening diseases. He also founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose grants to 1,500 medical studies worldwide make it the world's largest philanthropic funder of prostate-cancer research.
In 1995, he hosted the first Cancer Summit, an event that led to a 1998 March on Washington in support of increased funding of biomedical research. Over the five years following the March, Congress increased the resources of the National Institutes of Health from $14 billion per year to $27 billion. To date, that incremental increase represents $180 billion in additional public funding above the 1998 baseline. The yield on that investment is accelerated scientific discovery that has saved, enhanced and extended millions of lives around the world.
Because federal budget pressures threaten continued life-saving investments, Mike has called for a renewed national commitment to biomedical research. In September 2012, he hosted A Celebration of Science in Washington to honor scientific achievement and draw attention to the profound human, social and economic benefits that flow from research. Senior members of Congress, from both parties, joined more than 1,000 leaders in medical research, bioscience, patient advocacy, industry, philanthropy and public policy. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article on the opening day of the conference, he cited “an important role for government in fostering basic science.”
He also chairs the widely respected Milken Institute whose annual Global Conference brings 3,000 decision makers from more than 50 nations to Los Angeles every year.
As a financier, Mike is often said to have revolutionized modern capital markets, making them more democratic and dynamic by innovating a wide range of financing techniques previously unavailable to most companies. In a 2004 speech, Sir Harold Evans, author of the book, They Made America," said, "Michael Milken is a formidable innovator and we'll all be in his debt for a long time." A Washington Post column said he "helped create the conditions for America's explosion of wealth and creativity," a process that Business Week said "shook America's defeatist Establishment out of its gloom." Starting in 1969, he financed thousands of companies that created millions of jobs. The former editor of the Harvard Business Review wrote, "Much of the strength and resilience of the economy today—including its ability to rebound in times of adversity—is due to the way people using Milken's financing vehicles remade ailing companies or put their entrepreneurial zeal to work."
Mike is also chairman of Knowledge Universe Education, a leading company in early childhood education and distance learning.
He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with highest honors. He received his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow. He writes frequently about public-policy issues in major publications and is a widely sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. He and his wife Lori were married in 1968 and have three children and seven grandchildren.
Esquire magazine listed him among “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.” For more information, please visit www.mikemilken.com.