A Real Gem – Lori Milken’s Secret to Success

Lori Milken (2)

 “I’m in a very luxurious position because all of my children and grandchildren live in Los Angeles, so I get to see them all the time. That is the real luxury.”

After sitting on the board of nine organizations and founding her own publishing company, Lori Milken has learned that the true secret to success is simply flexibility. “’Be flexible’ is my motto for my marriage and all aspects of life,” the renowned philanthropist says serenely mere hours before the Los Angeles Ballet’s Rubies Gala, an event she’s spent the past year putting together. “My nature is basically to be structured and to know what’s happening in advance, but I’ve found that with the life I’ve been living for the past 45 years that it’s not really possible. I’ve learned over time to adapt,” she continues. “Back in my 20s, life was not nearly as complicated as it is now; it was so much more simple. I didn’t have children or grandchildren. I wasn’t involved in all the charitable work I do now. It was just a much simpler time. But as life goes on, it becomes more complex and I become more adaptable,” Lori adds sagely. Her ability to adjust absolutely worked to her benefit in putting together LAB’s annual benefit. “It’s been a year in the making and it really does take that long to put on an event like this,” she notes of the April 20 gala. “Towards the end it becomes stressful because you always have so many changes going on. We were doing tables for a week and I had to make changes every hour of every day.” Lori Milken

Despite its stresses, Lori is more than happy to co-chair an event she’s so passionate about. “When [Artistic Director] Colleen Neary and [Executive Director] Julie Whittaker were first starting the Los Angeles Ballet, they asked me to become involved, though I couldn’t join the board initially due to a conflict of interest – I was already involved with the American Ballet Theatre,” she explains. “But I thought to myself: ‘I’d rather represent Los Angeles because this is my city.’ And here I am.” In addition to housing her favorite spots – Nobu Malibu, Studio City’s Mistral restaurant and West Hollywood boutique Milk (owned by daughter Bari) are just a few – LA is also the place Lori and financier/billionaire husband Michael met and still call home. “I’ve known him since grade school but we didn’t really start dating seriously until our junior year of high school. Then we went to separate colleges for a year and a half, and dated other people during that time before getting back together at the University of Berkeley,” Lori reminisces, laughing, “You certainly better know what you’re in for!” Still, she suspect that Michael, now 66, might be the one even as a teenager. “How does a 16–year-old really know?” she muses. “But I did. He had a lot of qualities that I admired. He was outgoing whereas I was shy, and he was smart; I knew that he was going to be a success. I didn’t know he’d become quite the success that he is – that was quite a surprise – and I knew that he loved children. We would be walking down the street and every child he came upon he would stop and talk to. He was a very involved father. He worked very long hours, but when he came home he wasn’t afraid of changing diapers and even coached park basketball leagues and T-ball games.” Michael’s success in developing the high-yield bond market has also afforded Lori what she considers to be the greatest luxury in life, and that is “having enough money that I don’t have to worry about paying bills.” It allows her to devote her time and attention to organizations such as the Mattel Children’s Hospital, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Milken Family Foundation, the Milken Institute and UNI CEF . Additionally, the admitted book lover was able to found her own publishing company, Delphinium Books. But there are other, more important things than wealth to the very generous Mrs. Milken. “I couldn’t live without my family,” she says. “I’m in a very luxurious position because all of my children and grandchildren live in Los Angeles, so I get to see them all the time. That is the real luxury.”