Gordon Gekko

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Gordon Gekko
Wall Street character
Gordon Gekko.jpg
First appearance Wall Street (1987)
Last appearance Wall Street:
Money Never Sleeps
Created by Oliver Stone
Stanley Weiser
Portrayed by Michael Douglas[1]
Occupation Corporate raider
CEO of Gekko & Co. (formerly)
Spouse(s) Kate Gekko (ex-wife)
Children Rudy Gekko (son) (deceased)
Winnie Gekko-Moore (daughter)
Relatives Jacob Moore (son-in-law)
Louis Moore (grandson)
Nationality American

Gordon Gekko is a fictional character in the 1987 film Wall Street and its 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,[2] both directed by Oliver Stone. Gekko was portrayed by actor Michael Douglas, whose performance in the first film won him an Oscar for Best Actor.[3]

Co-written by Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Gekko is claimed to be based loosely on several actual financiers, including Stone's own father Louis Stone[4] and corporate raider Asher Edelman.[5] According to Edward R. Pressman, producer of the film, "Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modeled on," but added that "Gekko was partly Milken", who was the "Junk Bond King" of the 1980s.[6]

In 2003, the American Film Institute named Gordon Gekko No. 24 on its Top 50 movie villains of all time.[7] He is currently worth $1.1 billion[8], having inflated $100 million from his London investment company into $1 billion in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. In Wall Street, he was stated to be worth only $650 million.[9]

Cultural impact[edit]

Gekko has become a symbol in popular culture for unrestrained greed (with the signature line, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good"), often in fields outside corporate finance.

On September 25, 2008, Michael Douglas, acting as a UN ambassador for peace, was at the 2008 session of the United Nations General Assembly. Reporters sought to ask him off-topic questions about Gekko. He was asked whether he "bore some responsibility for the behavior of the greed merchants who had brought the world to its knees". Trying to return to topic, Douglas suggested that "the same level of passion Wall Street investors showed should also apply to getting rid of nuclear weapons."[10]

Douglas was also asked to compare nuclear Armageddon with the "financial Armageddon on Wall Street". After one reporter inquired, "Are you saying, Gordon, that greed is not good?" Douglas stated, "I'm not saying that. And my name is not Gordon. It's a character I played 20 years ago."[10][11]

On October 8, 2008, the character was referenced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech, "The Children of Gordon Gekko" concerning the Financial crisis of 2007-2010. Rudd stated "It is perhaps time now to admit that we did not learn the full lessons of the greed-is-good ideology. And today we are still cleaning up the mess of the 21st-century children of Gordon Gekko."[12]

On July 28, 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cited Gekko's Greed is good slogan in a speech to the Italian Senate, saying that the free market had been replaced by a greed market, and also blamed such a mentality for the 2007-2008 financial crisis.[13]

The FBI has used Michael Douglas' Gekko for an anti-insider trading campaign.[14][15][16][17][18]

In 2013, psychiatrists Dr. Samuel Leistedt and Dr. Paul Linkowski published a study of the portrayal of psychopaths in film, and cited the Gekko character as a realistic portrayal of the successful, "corporate psychopath": "In terms of a ‘successful psychopath," they write, "Gordon Gekko from Wall Street (1987) is probably one of the most interesting, manipulative, psychopathic fictional characters to date."[19]

The character Gordon Gekko is commemorated in the scientific name of a species of gecko, Cyrtodactylus gordongekkoi.[20]


In Wall Street, set in 1985, Gordon Gekko is first introduced as a multi-millionaire corporate raider, and a hero to young stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). Gekko, who runs financial service corporation Gekko & Co., is legendary for his financial genius and his ruthlessness, famously declaring that "greed is good" during a presentation for a paper company he owns. During the film, he takes Fox under his wing, and together they purchase Blue Star Airlines. Gekko tries to sell off the company's assets for a tremendous profit. The company goes bankrupt, and Bud's father Carl (Martin Sheen), a union leader for the company's maintenance workers, loses his life's savings. Fox learns that Gekko's trade scheme was illegal, and that his mentor is setting him up to take full responsibility and go to prison if the scheme is exposed. Bud makes a deal with the FBI for a reduced sentence in return for informing on Gekko. He also manages to ruin Gekko financially by raising the stock at a bid of 24, and telling his traders to dump it before Gekko can sell. Eventually, seeing that his ownership in the airline is now worthless, Gekko dumps the stock as well, costing him nearly all of his fortune. At the end of the film, he assaults Fox in retaliation for his defeat while bragging about the fraud he committed. Fox, who was wearing a wire, manages to record Gekko's confession for the SEC.

In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Gordon Gekko is released from prison after serving eight years for insider trading and securities fraud. Poor, and no longer respected in the corporate world, he becomes an author and lecturer, warning of an impending financial crisis and presenting himself as a living example of the consequences of corporate greed. His daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) has disowned him because she blames him for the suicide of her brother Rudy (who appeared in Wall Street as a toddler). Winnie's fiancé, a proprietary trader named Jake Moore (Shia LeBeouf), sees Gordon as a father figure, however, and goes into business with him. Together, they take on corrupt investment banker Bretton James (Josh Brolin), who has made a fortune buying out and restructuring failing businesses, costing employees and investors their livelihoods - much as Gekko once did. During the film, Gekko takes Winnie's $100 million trust fund and founds a financial services company in London (his company from the first film, Gekko & Co., got shut down and bankrupted when he was arrested). Seeking to atone for his past crimes, he deposits $100 million into a fusion research account owned by Winnie and asks her for forgiveness, which she grants. With help from Moore and Winnie, he exposes James' corruption to the authorities and obtains his clients and investors, becoming a billionaire. A year later, Gekko attends his grandson's first birthday party, having finally been accepted by Winnie and Jake as a father and grandparent.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gordon Gekko, Preaching the Gospel of Greed". NPR. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  2. ^ Burrough, Bryan (February 2010). "The return of Gordon Gekko". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  3. ^ Osborne, Robert A. (1999). 70 years of the Oscar: the official history of the Academy Awards. Abbeville Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-7892-0484-4. 
  4. ^ Anthony Vieira (September 23, 2010). "Review: Wall Street Money Never Sleeps". The Film Stage. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Vardi, Nathan. "Greed is so-so". forbes.com. Forbes. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Simon Goodley (28 August 2007). "Brace yourself, Gekko is back". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "AFI 100 years...100 heroes and villains". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  8. ^ "Gordon Gekko on The Forbes Fictional 15". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2018-03-18. 
  9. ^ Ackman, Edited by Michael Noer and Dan. "The Forbes Fictional Fifteen". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-18. 
  10. ^ a b Phillip Coorey (26 September 2008). "Michael who? It's Gekko we're after". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  11. ^ "Douglas goes nuclear: I'm not Gordon Gekko!". Fairfax Digital. 25 September 2008. 
  12. ^ Kevin Rudd (6 October 2008). "Edited extract of the speech: The children of Gordon Gekko". The Australian. 
  13. ^ Krause-Jackson, Flavia (July 28, 2009). "Vatican Slams 'Greed Is Good' Wall Street Mantra". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  14. ^ Protess, Ben; Ahmed, Azam (2012-02-27). "Michael Douglas Tackles Greed for F.B.I". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Palazzolo, Joe (2012-02-27). "Gordon Gekko Is Cooperating with the FBI". The Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ "Gordon Gekko: Greed Is Bad". The Wall Street Journal. 2012-02-27. 
  17. ^ Strasburg, Jenny; Albergotti, Reed (2012-02-28). "Insider Targets Expanding". The Wall Street Journal. 
  18. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. 2012-02-27. 
  19. ^ Perry, Susan (January 17, 2014). "Why psychopathic film villains are rarely realistic — and why it matters". Minnpost. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Retrieved June 21, 2018. 
  20. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Gordon Gekko", p. 104).

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