Steve Madden clawed his way to the top of the shoe industry with a massive drug addiction, ADHD, and despite serving jail time for stock fraud and money laundering. 

What may have looked like a bleak future for a strung out, shoe-obsessed junkie, turned into a multi-billion dollar shoe brand that featured shiny metallics, buckles and platforms for under $100 appealing to hippies in the seventies, Gen-X girls and stars like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

Madden, dubbed the Cobbler, disrupted the fashion industry with his designs that were inspired by British glam rockers and an abrupt departure from penny loafers, the style of the day.

It was his addiction to drugs that morphed into his obsession for shoes that eventually helped him find success.

Madden, 62, was born in Queens, NY but raised on Long Island where his ADHD began exhibiting itself and made him a lousy student and ‘a pain in the a**’ with his nervous energy.

‘I couldn’t get my sh*t together’. I had no self control’, Madden confesses in his new book, The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever, out on October 13.

Steve Madden, 62, reveals how he clawed his way to the top of the shoe industry with a massive drug addiction and served jail time for insider trading

 Steve Madden, 62, reveals how he clawed his way to the top of the shoe industry with a massive drug addiction and served jail time for insider trading

'I had no self control', Madden writes in his new book, The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever, out on October 13

‘I had no self control’, Madden writes in his new book, The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever, out on October 13

Lousy grades got him enrolled at the University of Miami where he couldn’t remember going to a single class.

‘Life was tanning oil and weed, days spent sleeping and nights of endless partying’.

Quaaludes helped lessen the effect of his ADHD that jumbled his mind.

‘Getting loaded was all that mattered. It was a singularly focused yet profoundly sad existence,’ he writes. 

Steve Madden's book The Cobbler by Radius Book Group is out October 13

Steve Madden’s book The Cobbler by Radius Book Group is out October 13

Drugs made him slur his words, drool, fall over and be ‘too blissed out to give a sh*t about anything else’.

He lasted a year before he quit to sell alarm systems door to door and stay high all the time.

Back in Atlantic Beach on Long Island, he sold shoes at Jildor, a multi-brand retailer and his addiction soared.

He was able to find partners in a shoe design business, L.J. Simon, and set up a factory in Manhattan making wedges, platforms and flats.

Moving on up, chasing his shoe fixation didn’t lessen his drug consumption.

He added cocaine to the mix while high on Quaaludes and booze.

‘The drugs had complete and total control over me’.

High all the time, he crashed more cars, woke up naked in the hallways of his apartment building, in clubs and restaurants.

He was constantly falling down while high and woke up with so many cuts and bruises on his body that he started wearing extra padding and a helmet.

On a sales call at Macy’s, he passed out on the sales floor and came to with a rack of dresses on top of him.

‘I was a g*ddamned mess’, Madden confesses.

Money became his new drug of choice when he partnered with an old high school friend and a stockbroker, Jordan Belfort in a company called Stratton Oakmont, later featured in the 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street directed by Martin Scorsese.

Belfort had a boiler room operation that ran a penny stock scam pushing ‘shi**y stocks on unsuspecting clients’.

Belfort promised Madden he could raise $600,000 for him and would eventually take his shoe company public.

‘We’ll make you a multi-fu**ing millionaire’, Belfort promised.

Madden, 62, was born in Queens, NY but raised on Long Island where his ADHD began exhibiting itself and made him a lousy student and 'a pain in the a**' with his nervous energy

Madden, 62, was born in Queens, NY but raised on Long Island where his ADHD began exhibiting itself and made him a lousy student and ‘a pain in the a**’ with his nervous energy

Drugs made him slur his words, drool, fall over and be 'too blissed out to give a sh*t about anything else,' he reveals in his book. Lousy grades got him enrolled at the University of Miami where he couldn't remember going to a single class

Drugs made him slur his words, drool, fall over and be ‘too blissed out to give a sh*t about anything else,’ he reveals in his book. Lousy grades got him enrolled at the University of Miami where he couldn’t remember going to a single class

'Getting loaded was all that mattered. It was a singularly focused yet profoundly sad existence,' he writes. Drugs made him slur his words, drool, fall over and be 'too blissed out to give a sh*t about anything else'

‘Getting loaded was all that mattered. It was a singularly focused yet profoundly sad existence,’ he writes. Drugs made him slur his words, drool, fall over and be ‘too blissed out to give a sh*t about anything else’

The deal was Madden would start as a flipper in their pump and dump stock company scams that artificially jacked up the stock price of lousy companies and then sold off shares for a huge profit.

Madden was on board and started making $25,000 in one day.

Jordan Belfort had a boiler room operation that ran a penny stock scam and promised Madden he could raise $600,000 for him and would take his company public

Jordan Belfort had a boiler room operation that ran a penny stock scam and promised Madden he could raise $600,000 for him and would take his company public

He gave up drugs for this new all consuming obsession that hooked him into believing money was everything.

‘I was fully on board the merry go-round, and I couldn’t get off, even if I had wanted to’.

He quit the shoe design partnership with L.J. Simon and opened a little factory in Queens – that remains the headquarters for Steve Madden shoes thirty years later.

But he wasn’t through with Jordan Belfort who took the company public giving Steve 15%.

It was illegal for Belfort to hold 85% of the shares as the underwriter of the public offering so he asked Madden to hold 1.3 million shares worth $4 million in Madden’s name with the assumption Madden would return them.

‘I knew Stratton had manipulated the stock and that the whole thing was probably too good to be true, but I told myself it was another grey area’, Madden writes, describing himself as ‘still a hustler’ always fearing the poverty he knew growing up.

But he had stepped over the line when he agreed to flip stocks for Stratton and jumped right into the pool of sharks with Belfort and his company.

When Stratton was shut down by the feds, Madden resumed his drug consumption – this time it was the opioid, Vicodin, a pain killer.

Jake Hoffman as Steve Madden and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in the 2013 film, "The Wolf of Wall Street".

Madden partnered with an old high school friend and a stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, later featured in the 2013 film, The Wolf of Wall Street. Jake Hoffman as Steve Madden and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in the film

Steve Madden is pictured with his factory team in 2009. Before he had his own team, he found partners in a shoe design business, L.J. Simon, and set up a factory in Manhattan making wedges, platforms and flats

Steve Madden is pictured with his factory team in 2009. Before he had his own team, he found partners in a shoe design business, L.J. Simon, and set up a factory in Manhattan making wedges, platforms and flats

Steve Madden is pictured in 2010 in front a NASDAQ sign. Jordan Belfort promised Madden he could raise $600,000 for him and would eventually take his shoe company public

Steve Madden is pictured in 2010 in front a NASDAQ sign. Jordan Belfort promised Madden he could raise $600,000 for him and would eventually take his shoe company public

Vicodin made it seem like ‘someone turned on a burner of a stove at the base of my skull and a delicious heat rose up in my brain’.

Seven years of sobriety vanished to this latest addiction.

That wasn’t his only problem.

Belfort wanted his shares back and Madden thought Belfort already made enough off of him.

He wasn’t willing to hand them over and someone was talking to the feds who knew Madden had participated in the manipulation of 29 initial public offerings including his own.

The SEC and FBI were closing in on Belfort’s financial crimes and hedonistic rituals of sex and drugs and offered Madden the option of wearing a wire to lessen what could be 25 years in jail.

He opted to do the time rather than be a rat.

‘More terrified than I had ever been in my life’, confessed Madden when he was found guilty and sentenced to 41-51 months in the slammer plus $11 million in restitution, fines and fees.

Next stop Eglin Federal Prison Camp in Western Florida for a brief stay until he was caught sending spending money to a fellow felon – just to be a good guy.

That cost him an additional eighteen months added to his sentence and a transfer out of minimum security to Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, a low security prison in Wildwood, Florida with wire fencing and guards with machine guns – still in the company of busted drug dealers.

While in prison, Wendy Ballew, Madden's director of operations, began writing him in jail and then visiting. A love affair and marriage followed in 2005 and three children, but the relationship dissolved in 2014

While in prison, Wendy Ballew, Madden’s director of operations, began writing him in jail and then visiting. A love affair and marriage followed in 2005 and three children, but the relationship dissolved in 2014

Madden was transfered out of minimum security to Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, a low security prison in Wildwood, Florida with wire fencing and guards with machine guns

Madden was transfered out of minimum security to Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, a low security prison in Wildwood, Florida with wire fencing and guards with machine guns

Madden wasn't able to keep his marriage alive because he was too consumed by shoes, long hours on the road launching his international business and selling shoes in more than 46 countries and counting

Madden wasn’t able to keep his marriage alive because he was too consumed by shoes, long hours on the road launching his international business and selling shoes in more than 46 countries and counting

At Coleman, Wendy Ballew, Madden’s director of operations, began writing him in jail and then visiting.

A love affair and marriage followed in 2005 and three children, but the relationship dissolved in 2014.

He said he was only always half listening.

‘Relationships were always a big problem in my life. You could call it another addiction.

‘I just couldn’t keep a relationship’ even after years of therapy.

Madden was too consumed by shoes, long hours on the road launching his international business and selling shoes in more than 46 countries and counting.

Deals were made with celebrity partnerships that included Lady Gaga, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as well as marketing on social media.

In 2014, Madden partnered with Kendall and Kylie Jenner on a line of handbags and shoes for girls in their early teens

In 2014, Madden partnered with Kendall and Kylie Jenner on a line of handbags and shoes for girls in their early teens

Deals have been made with celebrity partnerships that included Lady Gaga, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as well as marketing on social media

Madden is pictured with popstar Katy Perry.  Madden writes that he is grateful for a life that doesn't seem real – after a lifetime of mistakes and addictions, the creation of a multi-billion dollar global brand from nothing

Deals have been made with celebrity partnerships that included Lady Gaga, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as well as marketing on social media. Madden is pictured with popstar Katy Perry (right).  Madden writes that he is grateful for a life that doesn’t seem real – after a lifetime of mistakes and addictions, the creation of a multi-billion dollar global brand from nothing

In 2014, Madden partnered with Kendall and Kylie Jenner on a line of handbags and shoes for girls in their early teens.

Ja Rue, Iggy Azalea collaborations followed.

‘The company was bigger and more successful than anyone could have predicted. I really was on top of the world’, Madden writes, and this was ‘the closest to true happiness that I’d ever experienced’.

But he also realized that the company no longer needed him.

The team had outpaced the teacher.

Time for him to step back, overcome his massive self-centeredness and ‘let go of the company I’d given my life to create’.

Now free to spend more time with his kids, Madden is grateful for a life that doesn’t seem real – after a lifetime of mistakes and addictions, the creation of a multi-billion dollar global brand from nothing.



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