Gordon Gekko is a fictional character from the popular 1987 movie "Wall Street." Gekko was played by Michael Douglas, in a performance that was to win him an Oscar for Best Actor. In the film, na´ve stock broker Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, comes to work for the ultra-aggressive, power-hungry Gekko. Gekko is based loosely on arbitrageur Ivan Boesky who gave a speech on greed at the University of California in 1986, and real-life activist investor/corporate raider Carl Icahn. In 2002 Gordon Gekko was named one of the Fifteen Richest Fictional Characters according to Forbes who attributed him with 650 million dollars. In 2003, the AFI named him number 24 of the top 50 movie villains of all time.
"Greed is good" speech
Gekko's famous "Greed is good" speech was, to many, an excellent representation of the state of investment banking in the late 1980s. Gekko has since become a symbol of 1980s corporate greed. While the producers of the movie "Wall Street" hopefully intended to portray this character as a villain, ironically enough, thanks to this movie, Gordon Gekko became a source of inspiration for countless number of investment bankers around the world. It has often been suggested that Wall Street turned out to be a most effective recruitment tool for the investment banking industry. In addition, Gekko's diatribe against corporate mismanagement is just as relevant in the 21st century as in the 1980s. Gekko made the argument against well-entrenched corporate managers, saying they were taking advantage of shareholders. He contrasted the role of early American business leaders like the Carnegies and Mellons who only managed businesses in which they had significant investments with that of well paid company senior executives who owned very little of a company's stock, and hence had little stake in the company's performance.
He asserted to shareholders at a company meeting:
"You own the company. That's right -- you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their luncheons, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes ... Teldar Paper has thirty-three different vice presidents, each earning over 200,000 dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last 2 months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can't figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost $110,000,000 last year, and I'll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents."
He declared that as an asset stripper he was "not a destroyer of companies" but a "liberator of them." And most famously in the film, he asserted:
"The point is, ladies and gentleman, that 'greed' -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."
Gekko's clothing selections were both a nod to 1980s corporate culture fashion trends and an innovator in those trends. The colorful suspenders, shiny shoulder-padded suits and permanently slicked-back hair became the official look of power and fortune. His wardrobe was provided by Alan Flusser.