Michael Milken Applies “Entrepreneurial Zeal” to Quest to Live Forever

(p. B3) Michael Milken wants to live forever.

. . .

Milken in April [2023] published “Faster Cures,” a book that is part memoir, part a recounting of his efforts to bring the results of medical research to patients more quickly.

. . .

Shortly after his release from prison in 1993, he received a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer and was told he had 12 to 18 months to live. He survived thanks to a relentless pursuit of the latest treatments and a dramatic change in diet. Longevity is one focus of the Milken Institute.

. . .

While at Berkeley, Milken read a book called “Corporate Bond Quality and Investor Experience” that examined, among other things, yield charts and default rates for bonds issued by railroads, utilities and industrial companies between 1900 and 1943.

The data revealed something surprising, he recounted in “Faster Cures:” While risk and return had always been presumed to be directly correlated, the reality was that the market had historically overestimated the risk of higher-yielding investments. Investors actually got lower returns on a portfolio of high-grade bonds than they did on a portfolio of low-grade ones over time because the higher yields more than made up for the higher level of defaults.

Milken continued his work on high-yield bonds while pursuing an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. When he graduated in 1970, he joined the staff of Drexel, where he had previously worked as a consultant.

Bonds issued by Drexel were the primary source of financing for the likes of cable-industry titan Ted Turner, cellular pioneer Craig McCaw, fiber-optic entrepreneur William McGowan and casino magnate Steve Wynn.

“There was an entrepreneurial zeal in that firm that I haven’t seen since,” said Ted Virtue, a Drexel alumnus who now runs private-equity firm MidOcean Partners.

. . .

Milken’s work on prostate cancer has also made him an influential figure in medical research, where he has developed a reputation for being data-driven and impatient with bureaucracy. Every year he hosts a summit for scientists working on prostate cancer.

“Mike looked at the problem of cancer like a business problem to be solved,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “He wasn’t focused on the flashy. He really focused on what is going to make a difference.”

When the Prostate Cancer Foundation lacked the resources to fund a major study Knudsen needed to conduct to advance her research, she said, Milken introduced her to executives from a pharmaceutical company who he thought would be interested in the science. The company ended up funding the study.

For the full story, see:

Miriam Gottfried. “Bond King, Felon, Billionaire Philanthropist.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 15, 2023): B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated July 14, 2023, and has the title “Bond King, Felon, Billionaire Philanthropist: The Nine Lives of Michael Milken.”)

Milken’s book on how to cure more diseases faster is:

Milken, Michael. Faster Cures: Accelerating the Future of Health. New York: William Morrow, 2023.

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