Junk Bond King pushes
Prostate Cancer Awareness
He didn’t really talk about baseball, and he didn’t talk about the kind of stuff that I think about when I think Michael Milken namely corporate takeovers, junk bonds, stock market crashes and federal RICO charges. He talked about prostate cancer.
And maybe because Michael Milken talking about prostate cancer in the middle of the Giants A’s game was the last thing that I expected to happen, I actually learned quite a bit.
Before we get to what I learned about prostate cancer, let’s review the Michael Milken story. Milken is a financier who developed the volatile junk-bond market, which fueled the 1980’s culture of corporate raids and hostile takeovers. He was known as “The Junk-Bond King” while building the most powerful merger and acquisition firm on Wall Street, and he cleared an average of $500 million a year in the late 80’s. Oliver Stone’s classic film “Wall Street” is modeled after Milken’s early career.
In 1989, Milken’s bubble popped. An ambitious U.S. Attorney operating out of southern New York by the name of Rudy Giuliani charged Milken under the RICO act with 98 separate counts of racketeering and fraud. Milken agreed to a plea bargain admitting insider trading after Giuliani froze his assets and began to pursue charges against Milken’s family. Eventually, Milken received a ten year sentence, and was forced to pay out over $1 billion dollars in fines and civil judgments. Milken served a few years, and came out a different man. One, he was poorer. Two, he had prostate cancer.
So back to the baseball game. Milken had interrupted a scoreless pitchers’ duel in the bottom of the fifth to talk about who-knows-what. Turns out he’s talking about prostate cancer. Turns out that the same Michael Milken who may have single-handedly caused the 1987 stock market crash now runs one of the biggest health care charities in the world. Turns out that Milken raised over $31 million towards prostate cancer prevention and research last year alone.
All of that was very surprising to me, but what really hit me was when he started quoting the statistics. One in six American men will face prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second largest cause of death among American men. Prostate cancer is nearly completely treatable when detected early, but nearly always fatal when detected late in the game.
Milken ended his speech by stating that June was Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and that Father’s Day was Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.
I guess I was surprised to hear about all of this from a convicted felon during a baseball game. I knew, for instance, that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month you see the pink ribbons everywhere, and you hear about awareness and early detection everywhere from the Oprah show to right here in the Journal which dedicated a two-page feature on the topic last year. After a little research, I found that prostate cancer is deadlier and more common among men than breast cancer is among women and that both are a lot less scary with early detection techniques.
At the end of the day, I just wanted to do my part to publicize the efforts taking place to combat this disease. The numbers (one in six men!) really shocked me, and I figured that if the convicted Junk Bond King is the best advocate the health community has to spread the word about prostate cancer awareness, then maybe I should help out in whatever way I could. I don’t have any personal stories to share, and I don’t think I know anyone who’s been affected, but I found it disturbing that a disease could be such a potent killer of men, and that I hadn’t really heard that much about it.
So that’s really all I have for this week. No politics. No funny stories. Just a junk bond king and disease statistics. I really must encourage you to check out prostatecancerfoundation.org and educate yourself about the disease. Also, talk to the men in your family about early detection. Regular check-ups starting at 40 years of age can be a lifesaver, and if you won’t take my word for it, just start watching more baseball, and I’m sure the Junk Bond King will show up at some point, paying off his debt to America by trying to save one father at a time.
Kevin Hulten writes the weekly Off the Record column and maintains the Off the Record blog located at www.lakestevensjournal.com. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.