Today as we consumers gorge on holiday sales, I thought how appropriate to feature this famous speech from the movie Wall Street (1987). The setting: The annuals shareholder’s meeting for a corporation called Teldar. The speaker: Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) who has been allowed to take the floor to make his pitch to the shareholders against the current corporate leadership represented by Cromwell (Richard Dysart). This monologue, along with the rest of the script, was written by Stanley Weiser & Oliver Stone, and features one of the most famous movie lines in the 80′s: “Greed is good.”
Gekko is now at floor level with a microphone. He's calmer, makes his pitch to the stockholders, looking up at the management. GEKKO ...I appreciate the chance you're giving me, Mr. Cromwell, as the single largest stockholder in Teldar, to speak. (gets some laughter and applause, loosens) On the way here today I saw a bumper sticker. It said, "Life is a bitch... then you die". (gets another laugh) ...well ladies and gentlemen, we're not here to indulge in fantasies, but in political and economic reality. America has become a second rate power. Our trade deficit and fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. In the days of the 'free market' when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the shareholders. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the man who built this industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today management has no stake in the company. Altogether these guys sitting up there own a total of less than 3% and where does Mr. Cromwell put his million dollar salary? Certainly not in Teldar stock, he owns less than 1%. You own Teldar Paper, the stockholders, and you are being royally screwed over by these bureaucrats with their steak lunches, golf and hunting trips, corporate jets, and golden parachutes! Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over $200,000 a year. I spent two months analyzing what these guys did and I still can't figure it out. (a big laugh) Cromwell is pissed. CROMWELL This is an outrage Gekko! You're full of shit! GEKKO One thing I do know is this paper company lost $110 million last year, and I'd bet half of that is in the paperwork going back and forth between all the vice presidents... (increased laughter, he's getting them) The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be 'survival of the unfittest'. Well in my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated. Teldar Paper is doomed to fail. Its diversification into casualty insurance has not worked. Its crown jewels are its trees, the rest is dross. Through wars, depressions, inflations and deterioration of paper money, trees have always kept their value, but Teldar is chopping them all down. Forests are perishable, forest rights are as important as human rights to this planet, and all the illusory Maginot lines, scorched earth tactics, proxy fights, poison pills, etc. that Mr. Cromwell is going to come up with to prevent people like me from buying Teldar Paper are doomed to fail because the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen, as you very well know, is the only way to stay strong is to create value, that's why you buy stock, to have it go up. If there's any other reason, I've never hear it. (laughter) That's all I'm saying...it's you people who own this company, not them, they work for you and they've done a lousy job of it. Get rid of them fast, before you all get sick and die. I may be an opportunist, but if these clowns did a better job, I'd be out of work. In the last seven deals I've been in, there were 2.3 million stockholders that actually made a pretax profit of $12 billion. When I bought the Ixtlan Corporation it was in the exact same position Teldar is today -- I turned three of its companies private and I sold four others -- and each of these companies, liberated from the suffering conglomerate has prospered. I am not a destroyer of companies, I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, greed is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind -- and greed, mark my words -- will save not only Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA...Thank you. Much applause as he sits. Now a standing ovation; shouts of approval. Cromwell knows he has lost the day, tries to continue the meeting by calling for "order". Bud watches, impressed.
And here’s the actual scene:
A tour du force performance by actor Michael Douglas.
[Originally posted November 28, 2008]