Gordon Gekko Goes Against Type at $28 Million Wall Street Dinnerby
Actor Michael Douglas delivers keynote at UJA Federation event
Blankfein, Och, Jon Gray, John Paulson, Kapito attend event
Centerbridge Partners co-founder Jeffrey Aronson remembers the first time he saw “Wall Street,” the 1987 film that introduced corporate raider Gordon Gekko of “Greed is good” fame.
“It was the movie everyone working on Wall Street had to see,” said Aronson, who was 29 when the film came out, one year into his career in the industry. “It became an instant classic for young people.”
Aronson was speaking in an interview Monday evening at the UJA Federation of New York’s annual Wall Street dinner. The keynote speaker was actor Michael Douglas, who played Gekko in “Wall Street” and a sequel. The event at the New York Hilton Midtown drew a crowd of more than 2,000.
“Charity is good,” Douglas said of the record $28 million raised at the dinner. The actor said he still regularly meet fans of the film -- some inebriated -- who credit Gekko with inspiring them to work in finance.
“They’ll say, ‘You’re the man, you’re the guy, you’re the reason why I got into this business,’” Douglas told the crowd. “And I say to them, ‘But I went to jail.’”
Wall Street has gone through a lot since the movie came out. The glamour and avarice portrayed in the film has been overshadowed by financial crises, insider-trading cases and, most recently, heated election rhetoric. Through it all, the UJA Federation has held the annual dinner, shining a light on Wall Streeters who give generously.
Monday’s honorees were Aronson and Cowen Group President Jeffrey Solomon. They were celebrated for their support of UJA, which works to strengthen Jewish life in almost 70 countries and support social services for New Yorkers in need. Among others in attendance were Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein; BlackRock Inc. President Robert Kapito and hedge fund founders Dan Och, John Paulson and Boaz Weinstein.
Next year’s dinner will celebrate UJA Federation’s centennial as “Wall Street” marks its 30th anniversary. Brett Barth of BBR Partners said he was in high school when the film came out and probably didn’t understand most of it.
“Cell phones have gotten much smaller,” Barth said in an interview, recalling the brick-like gadget Douglas carried around in the movie.