Nov 29, 2007

Jim Michaels on rebels, upstarts and Michael Milkin

Jim Michaels had a soft spot for rebels and upstarts. In 1961, when he became editor, FORBES was devoted to the doings of big corporations. By the time he left that job we were giving equal time to entrepreneurs and innovators. Upstarts are not universally admired. Software entrepreneurs put a million secretaries out of work. If the stores on Main Street are boarded up, Sam Walton is to blame. MCI's success sent many a phone company worker to the unemployment line.

Michaels had a particular fascination with Michael Milken, and coauthored an epic story in 1992 telling the discredited financier's view of things. Sympathy for the devil? Well, Michaels was scarcely naive about this guy; his magazine was early (in 1984) in explaining Milken's bond-trading shenanigans. But by the time of his jailhouse interview with the junk bond king, Michaels had come to see Milken in a Schumpeterian light. Whether or not Milken had broken the rules of securities trading was far less important than how he had broken the patterns of capital formation. He had staked entrepreneurs, upstarts and predators to capital that they never would have seen from the old Wall Street. By doing so, he financed creative destruction: the shrinking of old industries and the building of new ones. For that, Milken became, in the mainstream media, an enemy of the people.

~ William Baldwin, editor, Forbes, "Iconoclasts," October 29, 2007

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