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Smarter Money: How to Play a Money Manager on TV

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Maybe there should be a rule against portfolio managers who are being crushed and stomped and flattened like Play-Doh appearing on television? That way, we wouldn't have to see Ryan Jacob play the role of portfolio manager tonight on CNN's MoneyLine. I don't even care if his appearance is strictly a historical foil to show how far we have fallen from last year's graces. The simple fact that he is down another 20%-plus on top of his massive decline last year should make him realize that it might be best to lie low instead of hyping his fund once again.

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Or will he use the appearance to apologize for his dismal performance? I doubt it. Jacob's most recent investor correspondence, his Feb. 20 note, continues the calm, sober, "analytical" tone Jacob has adopted during the fiasco that is the backend of his fund career. He speaks lovingly of Art Technology Group (ARTG), which hadn't started its steep descent when he penned the note. It continues to be one of the best remaining shorts in the group. He "snared" some HotJobs (HOTJ) before the head-office turmoil that drove that stock down to the low single digits.

But his note saves most of its praise for Yahoo! (YHOO), which he purchased despite an acknowledged set of "near-term" issues. Oh boy, there's an understatement.

Jacob's a relic of an era where anybody could come on television, look good and run money. It was a peculiar late-'90s thing, when running money was considered easy as pie. I know I seem like an old fogey when I write this, but once upon a time it was really big deal to think you could run other peoples' money, let alone actually go do it. I remember the admonishments I received from my brethren at Goldman Sachs when I left the firm to go out on my own.

And I was good, with a solid track record. The shame and stigma of failure back then wasn't something that could be one-hour-Martinized out of your reputation, let alone your suit. These days they ought to give an Emmy for who plays the role of portfolio manager best on television. Tune in tonight at 6:30 to CNN to see the nominations.

Random musings: Now that I am retired from 20 years of successful stock-picking, I want to show you one method of how I persevered through thick and thin -- that is, by identifying great CEOs. Come to my Great CEOS conference, an intimate get-together where we can meet and chat and I can reveal some of the trade secrets of Cramer Berkowitz when I ran the joint.

James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. While he cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send comments on his column to jjcletters@thestreet.com.

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