Great Scene: “Wall Street”
Featuring one of the most memorable lines of dialogue in the last three decades.
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).
Gekko is now at floor level with a microphone. He’s calmer,
makes his pitch to the stockholders, looking up at the
…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.
This is an outrage Gekko! You’re
full of shit!
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
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.
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 movie version of the scene:
A tour du force performance by Michael Douglas in a truly Great Scene.