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Langone to millennials embracing socialism: 'I'll put you on my plane and fly you to Venezuela'

Katie Krzaczek
Associate Editor

Just after the 10th anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers, co-founder of the Home Depot (HD) Ken Langone cited the market crash that followed as the reason many millennials have a negative view of capitalism.

“They were 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 years old,” Langone told Yahoo Finance’s Julia La Roche at the All Markets Summit on Sept. 20. “So capitalism did not present itself very well.”

Read more: Wall Street CEO identifies 25 lessons he learned from the 2008 financial crisis

Langone went on to suggest that countries that have adopted a socialist system aren’t doing well. To the millennials who seem to favor socialism, Langone said: “I’ll put you in my plane and I’ll fly you down to Venezuela, and let’s see how good socialism is doing down there.”

Ken Langone speaks during the 2018 Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at The Times Center on September 20, 2018 in New York City.

The criticisms many millennials today have of capitalist systems were likely borne out of growing up through the Great Recession. One of the most visible effects in the wake of the recession has been the increasing burden of student loan debt, which has caused some young people to delay life milestones.

“But that wasn’t capitalism,” Langone said of the market crash and recession. “That was a system that’s gone amok.

“If you give [Wall Street] an opening on how to make money, they’ll take advantage of it. That’s the way the system works,” he said. “Sometimes for the good, sometimes not. So I understand [millennials’] bias based on that period of time.”

‘I don’t think anybody should apologize for being successful’

In discussing his own success, Langone said he makes “no apology whatsoever for having a beautiful airplane that takes me wherever I want to go, or beautiful homes. None of that.”

He said that he and his wife have given away more than they’ve spent. “If you add up all the money we’ve spent on ourselves, homes, vacations, cars … it’s a fraction of the money we’ve given away to great causes.”

Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone interviewed by Julia La Roche at the 2018 Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at The Times Center on September 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Part of Langone and his wife’s giving includes contributing $100 million to the recent endowment that will fund tuition for all medical students at New York University.

“I was a fraction of the money that was necessary to make that happen,” Langone said. “We raised $500 million, and I only gave $100 million. There’s $400 million from other people, all private donors.”

Langone pointed to this and other examples of charitable giving at institutions around the country, which represent the “moral obligation” he feels he has to reach “the most people possible.”

“Go to every college and university in America today, look at the buildings that have names on them. Go to the medical centers all over the city. Go to libraries. Go to museums,” Langone said. “All those places exist because people saw fit to share their good fortune with others. And I don’t think anybody should apologize for being successful.”

Watch the full Langone interview here >>

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