Martin Wygod, a winner on Wall Street and on the track, dies at 84

Martin J. Wygod, a Wall Street wizard who went from post-racing hobby horses to owning and breeding championship thoroughbreds when he made millions investing in online companies that sold pharmaceuticals by mail and pruned medical records, died on the 12th April in San Diego. He was 84 years old.

His daughter, Emily Bushnell, said he died in hospital from complications of a lung disease.

Raised near two horse tracks in suburban New York and mentored by a software pioneer, investor and gambler, Wygod is said to have been the youngest managing partner of a New York Stock Exchange brokerage firm in years '60. He became a millionaire before he was 30 and in 1993 sold Medco Containment Services to Merck for $6 billion, having transformed it into the nation's largest prescription drug company and mail-order benefits provider in less than a decade. The sale netted Mr. Wygod $250 million.

“The key to the game in the future will be information,” Jan Buck, president of Princeton Group International, a pharmaceutical industry consultancy, commented on the sale to the New York Times in 1994. “Marty Wygod made $6 billion for himself because he developed a database.

Wygod then became president of WebMD, a leader in online health information services, which he sold in 2017 for a reported $2.8 billion.

He married Pamela Suthern in 1980, and in 1995 they moved from New Jersey to River Edge Farm, a 110-acre area in Buellton, California, where they raised fillies and colts to become top racehorses.

Ranked as California's top Thoroughbred breeders in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the pair, with and without partners, have bred 124 stakes winners, according to BloodHorse magazine. They moved their ranching operation to Kentucky in 2010.

Martin Joshua Wygod was born on February 1, 1940, in Manhattan to Max Wygod, an accountant and haberdasher who immigrated from Poland, and Rose (Greenwald) Wygod.

His affection for horses began when he was a student at Lawrence High School in suburban Nassau County, where he befriended Bobby Frankel, who would become a Hall of Fame trainer. As a teenager, he hung out with classmates at Aqueduct and Belmont Park, where he walked his horses to cool them off after practices and races.

After graduating in 1961 from New York University, where his daughter said he studied Hinduism and Buddhism, Wygod began his career on Wall Street with an initial gift of $20,000 from his mother (the equivalent of just over $200,000 today's dollars).

He told the Times in 2000 that his mentors were Fletcher Jones, who pioneered the commercialization of computer software and initiated Mr. Wygod into the technology business; Fred Carr, an investment manager; and Manny Kalish, a gambler who organized handicapping contests for the New York tabloids and taught Mr. Wygod to pick winners.

Mr. Wygod assisted Mr. Jones, a founder of Computer Sciences Corporation, in taking the company public. This offering helped grow Wygod's $20,000 into around $50 million in the 1980s.

In 1965, Mr Jones gave Mr Wygod two horses for his 25th birthday.

“They both won the first time,” Wygod said in 2000. “I was hooked.”

His stable would win more than a dozen major races over the years.

When he was 23, Mr. Wygod started his own brokerage firm; he sold it three years later for $10 million. The following year, he and two other investors, Bernie Marden and Albert Weiss, bought a controlling stake in Glasrock Medical Services, which made devices for the healthcare industry. By 1982, by selling most of his stake in Glasrock and another company, he had turned his original $2 million investment into $125 million.

Mr. Carr had been an early supporter of Medco. Michael Milken, another earlier investor in Wygod's ventures, recalled to the Times in 2000 that a impetus for Medco was a complaint from Lee Iacocca, then Chrysler's chairman, that prescription drugs for auto workers were costing the company a small fortune. Medco negotiated discounts and incentives for employees who purchased low-priced generic drugs.

“It was one of the greatest creations by a company, really from scratch,” Milken said. He added: “Anything Marty does, I would invest in, except horses.”

In reality, horses were no exception. The Wygods-run racing operation posted career earnings of more than $21 million, including $2.8 million in their best year, 2009.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Wygod is survived by his son, Max; a stepson, Adam Yellin; his sister, Marian; and three grandchildren.

His daughter is an equestrian to whom, along with blood consultant Ric Waldman, Mr. Wygod gave his 3-year-old colt Resilience, which could mark another rung in Mr. Wygod's legacy. By winning the Wood Memorial in New York on April 6, Resilience earned a spot in the 150th Kentucky Derby on May 4.

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