Who is Gordon Gekko?

Gordon Gekko is a character from the 1987 Oliver Stone movie Wall Street and the 2010 sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Michael Douglas played Gordon Gekko in both movies.

Gordon Gekko Background

In the original movie, Gordon Gekko is a high-powered and extremely successful corporate raider. A young, persistent stockbroker, Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen), comes under his wing and learns the inner workings of insider trading and corporate raiding. Wanting to get in with Gekko but not realizing that Gekko would eventually use him to make millions, Fox gets Gekko to invest in Blue Star Airlines. Fox’s father is a mechanic at the company, and through him Fox becomes aware of material nonpublic information about the company, which he passes on to Gekko. Gekko then buys the company, which is undervalued, and sells off the assets at a profit, causing the employees to lose their jobs. Fox devises a plan to burn Gekko in retaliation, and Fox meets his own destiny.

Why Does Gordon Gekko Matter?

Gordon Gekko is one of the most famous fictional characters of the finance world. His most famous lines, often debated and repeated to this day, come in a scene when Gekko attends the shareholders meeting of Teldar Paper, which has been grossly mismanaged.

'Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over two hundred thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two 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 million dollars 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. 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. In the last seven deals that I've been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! 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. Thank you very much.'

Gekko’s speech is controversial because it confronts the importance of self-interest in capitalist economies -- an idea that mirrors real-life Adam Smith’s argument in Wealth of Nations: 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.'