If you know who I am, don’t bother to read this. If you don’t, maybe this piece can help you figure out what I do and who I aspire at all times to be.
First, I never thought I would have to pen a piece like this after 50,000 Real Money columns, thousands of TV shows, millions given away by my charitable trust and my myriad teachings and lectures via Action Alerts Plus.
But I have been around long enough to know that there are millions of new investors and traders who have conceptions, or I should say, preconceptions, about me. So, it’s worth giving you my preamble, lest it be misappropriated by others who seem to miss what I am trying to accomplish. Some will never get it. Others may say it’s the usual baseless defense by a someone who truly is against the regular guy. Still, others might have a little more inkling to my work as described by the horse’s mouth and it pays to do so, rather than just continually block people on Twitter, or be roughed up on Reddit's "WallStreetBets" and other sites that really don’t know much about me at all.
So here goes.
I started my investing while I lived in my car, after getting robbed repeatedly and losing everything I had. I gave a little bit to Magellan Fund at Fidelity, because I never told my parents I lived in my 1978 Ford Fairmont. I didn’t want to freak them out. I also didn’t want to hear pleas to come back because, as you might be able to tell, I am not a quitter. I put the money in Fidelity, managed by the great Peter Lynch, really to get my father off my back because he thought I was doing well enough to save money. I was able to save money on homeowners’ insurance for sure, but at $173 a week in L.A. there was little hope to be able to afford rent.
As a reporter, I got sent upstate to cover everyone who died violently in California, after covering when Jim Jones made his flock drink the Kookaid, writing what seemed like endless obituaries of those who were needlessly sacrificed. My editor loved that he was able to assign me the hardest and worst stories and so off I went. The advantage: I was often given an expense account to stay at a hotel, and in candor, I met a terrific partner who would meet me at I-5 and got me some shelter.
However, it was too late for my health. The newspaper I worked at, The LA Herald Examiner, long since defunct, had health care coverage from Kaiser Permanente, which, at that time, didn’t have a presence in Northern California. I had been drinking pretty heavily and ended, as I was covering some farm worker homicides, and checked into a clinic where a terrific doctor asked me how much I was drinking and I was reluctant to tell him it was in such an excess. But he couldn’t be fooled, because I had a gigantic stain on my lower abdomen, a telltale sign of a jaundiced liver.
I was never going to give up, until I had proven myself at a truly dead-end job where I was going nowhere and I needed some health care badly. The doc said that I couldn’t have another drink until the yellow stain went away.
Two years later, I had a J&B but had lost my enthusiasm for its taste -- as well as pretty much every other liquor — and I got to work reporting at the American Lawyer, a new magazine.
I knew one thing: I never wanted to be poor again. Ever. I never wanted to have to borrow a shower, to have to sleep on a couch, have to douse myself with powder, have to wear the same clothes over and over again and have to stay warm with Jack Daniels.
So, I applied to law school and got in at Harvard with a full scholarship and a job working for the admissions department with room and board. I had a proclivity for stocks, even before I got to law school and watched Bill Griffeth and Sue Herera, then Sue McMahon on FNN religiously. I was sending out a stock newsletter to my parents with a stock of the week and ended up with such success that I put it on my answering machine -- yes we had them back then -- every Sunday night.
A wealthy individual was trying to get me to write an article for him and he couldn’t get hold of me, but started making a lot of money by listening to the back end of “I’m not here right now, but I think that you want to buy ... this week,” and he ended up giving me a ton of money, which I promptly dropped 8% and wanted to make it back mowing his lawn and washing his dishes.
Instead he doubled down on me and the rest really is history, because I crushed it and kept crushing it when I got a job at Goldman Sachs (GS) - Get Report in sales and trading, ultimately becoming what is now a private wealth adviser.
After four truly great years, I decided to go off on my own, met a fabulous woman, Karen Cramer, who ran a trading desk, and she left to work with me, not before she urged me to sell everything before the '87 crash.
I did; my trading sheets showed only some Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report $90 puts, which made a fortune in themselves, and I never had trouble raising money again, because I could show that position sheet for the crash.
I had a terrific run, but I never forgot that guy in the car, the guy with nothing, who wanted to make something, anything, and could only really have a chance to do so in the stock market. It was the way to augment your paycheck and I had seen so many wealthy people buy “the right stocks” that I became convinced that if you could help educate so-called regular people, whom I now call homegamers—they could make fortunes, too.
In 1991, I had helped start a magazine called SmartMoney with my friends Steve Swartz, now running Hearst, and James B. Stewart, who is the best reporter ever lived and had worked with me at American Lawyer. Fabulous people, both.
I was itching to do something different, though, and started fooling with the web to develop an on-light stock site called TheStreet. I charged money for it and the thing took off anyway, and we ultimately came public in 1999.
The offering was a disaster. But we survived, unlike 330 other companies who came public during that time, because we had a mission and the mission was simple: We were going to educate people how to pick stocks, how to empower them, how to use the worldwide web and e-trading to make more money than they would otherwise.
I ultimately surrendered my hedge fund at the end of 2000, giving it to my partner, not charging him — I don’t know, it wasn’t smart, but I did things like that — and decided I was going to work full-time at TheStreet, because I liked the mission and I didn’t want to go under, which it most certainly would have.
Not long after, I started a charitable trust and agreed to disclose all trades before I made them giving a rationale for each. It was meant as a recommended list, but I was made fun of instantly for trying to do the impossible, which was to show people how pros manage money. Of course, pros hide everything, because they make a bunch of embarrassing moves and don’t want them seen.
Along the way, the product grew and I had terrific people like Stephanie Link work with me, as well as Scott Berman, and now the amazing Jeff Marks, who is the chief portfolio manager and Zev Fima, his fantastic terrific No. 2. We run it together and Jeff takes the lead.
Now, I give you all of this information, because I now find myself under almost daily assault from a host of places and, of course, my mentions column on Twitter.
Many times, I am regarded as a “suit” who is a tool of hedge funds for everything I do, whether it be my columns in Real Money or my television shows or Action Alerts. I purportedly represent a strain of individual who does not care about the little guy, or the regular guy, or the WallStreetBets guy, and want them to lose. I am supposed to be betting against them, whether it be with the SPACs -- those special purpose acquisition companies -- I am critical of, or the suggestions about some stocks that i just don’t want.
I can’t convince some of these people of anything that’s really true: I speak to no hedge funds, I like some SPACs, but don’t like others because some seem good and some seem bad. I have always — long before WallStreetBets —wanted regular people to get rich. I have written seven books saying same. A had a radio show for four years dedicated to total call-in to help people with their portfolios. Most important, I swore I would never work for rich people again. I would work for the guy in the Ford Fairmont, living in that back seat with the gun, the hatchet, the Jack Daniels and Johnson’s baby powder.
Perhaps that’s what makes me so angry and so unwilling to ignore most of the critics, although I have given up engaging about 99% of them and spend most of my time blocking people or reporting them to Twitter for abuse or both.
Am I a saint?
Nah. I have made my share of mistakes. They are all on tape these days and if I try to defend them, it really doesn’t matter. They can color my whole career as far as many of these people -- including the youngest ones — even as I have a body of work that would long since seem like an antecedent to WallStreetBets without the scatological references and the obsession on just a few stocks instead of a lot of fresh ideas. I have documented how I got hung as a short-seller, not unlike Melvin, but on a much smaller scale and what it means to be “bought in.” I did it so people could learn from my mistakes.
Again, no saint, but not the sinner that I am made out to be by any means.
For example, I have been a huge supporter of Chewy (CHWY) - Get Report since it went public, even when it has had quarters that Wall Street thought were subpar. If you ask management who has been most supportive and the biggest believer, they would almost certainly say me.
That means the concept, which was created in part by Ryan Cohen, is one I wholeheartedly believe in and I think he’s a very smart guy.
I had also been a huge believer in GameStop (GME) - Get Report at one point and brought Paul Raines, the late CEO, on a number of times to see how he was struggling to resuscitate the chain when digital downloading decimated his business.
So, when Cohen bought his stake in the company, I became quite excited and was very surprised that so many stayed short the darned thing. There were so many ways to re-invent the brick-and-mortar entity, the same way that Laura Alber did at Williams-Sonoma (WSM) - Get Report.
In an era of cryptocurrency, where mining could make a fortune, I thought he might want to make the stores learning centers that sold cards specifically for mining. I thought it would be a brick-and-mortar information store about trading cards with tremendous value or perhaps sneakers, which can have insanely high trading value. Pretty much anything including non-fungible tokens. Yes, I know they are verified by blockchain and need nothing brick-and-mortar. But why not be partnered with an online company that can help? Why not tie up with T-Mobile (TMUS) - Get Report, the most forward thinking of all the phone companies and turn your stores into T-Mobile outlets with gaming hardware as an add-on or a feature for fast Wi-Fi? There are so many things that can be done with those 5,000 stores and that decent balance sheet. That’s why I could see this ten dollar stock going higher, maybe a double, triple even, if all worked out and the shorts, the ridiculous blind shorts, didn’t see the potential, or only saw it as 5,000 stores dedicated to a box refresh and then back to the old way of doing things.
That’s when I left the scene and had to get emergency back surgery to regain my ability to walk. When I came to, and had some time to rest, I woke up to the stock being at $350. That seemed so high that I angered everyone who had helped me at the hospital and said at $350 that people should take something off the table, because they had hit a home run and didn’t need a grand slam.
I promptly fell right back into pain, killing hell, and since then have had to re-learn how to walk. I went back too soon to work, didn’t want to take any time off because I wanted to do what was right and wanted to help people, including those in GameStop, but I quickly relapsed and found myself back in the hospital, determined this time to get it right — hence last week.
Since then, I have been under relentless antagonism by many anonymous people who believe I have sided with mysterious hedge funds, even as I talk to none of them. I have contributed to the cabal that wants to keep people in their chain. I want regular investors to do worse. I don’t want to expose how they can be hurt. I want them to lose and lose big.
Along the way, I have chosen not to embrace cannabis, just GrowGeneration (GRWG) - Get Report went from $16 to $65 and Canopy (CGC) - Get Report the whole way because of the Constellation's (STZ) - Get Report tie-in.
I have not been as focused on Palantir (PLTR) - Get Report as much as I perhaps should, because much of its business is secret, so I don’t want to make up what I don’t know. AMC (AMC) - Get Report? I applaud Adam Aron for raising money to survive in an almost impossible position: Movie theatres can be ground-zero if not careful. But Adam will be.
GameStop? To do the things I think are necessary, it might require getting out of a bunch of leases — all the unprofitable ones — which will cost a lot of money – and then perhaps reinventing and even becoming a place where gamers can congregate by taking on the dark end of a mall. You want to be part of the gaming revolution you need space, and you need tourneys and the GameStop I envision could do that if it were able to raise some money at these levels. I don’t know how much. That’s up to Cohen to decide. If he thinks that going from a brick and mortar game store to a digitized entity —like many I have described — requires no more new money — well, terrific. I don’t see how, but he’s the visionary; I am the analyst.
Along the way I have been a big, vocal supported of crypto, and revealed I was a buyer between $12,000 and $15,000, but did take my cost basis out and am letting it run. I have been pro Tesla (TSLA) - Get Report since November 2019 in the vicinity of $65.
Perfect on either? Of course not. But pretty darned good if you listened and I am sorry if you didn’t.
A few years ago, an outfit called Maven bought TheStreet and I stayed on doing what I was doing. I could have quit, but I chose to keep working. I am grateful not to have to play for dinner, which extends to all my endeavors. Am I still a suit? I wear one. I like it. That’s television for you, a job that I think you should look as nice as possible, something my father and my mother before that thought was very important. I can’t make apologies for that.
I have now devoted more than half my life trying to make people who don’t have a lot of money try to get wealthy. I am not out there selling you stocks and bonds. I am not taking 1% of your money often just to do nothing with it. I gave up running a hedge fund 20 years ago after a 24% record after all fees. The S&P did 8% during that period. I think that performance and my time at Goldman Sachs can be be used to help people who are not headed to Goldman and could not be in my hedge fund.
I still love ideas. When I go to WallStreetBets, which I do regularly, I do not see a lot of new ideas like I try to find. I see castigation of me in a puerile way, although sometimes it’s pretty darned funny.
And I see the obsession with GameStop and the desire to put the hurt/heat on hedge funds that I am not even siding with. I am not offering how to bust a short, or how to buy out of the money calls and then gun the common. I am actually offering legitimate ways for Cohen to re-invent GameStop. For that reason and perhaps that I believe some might need more capital than GameStop has, I am, somehow, not on board.
Well here’s where the rubber hits the road: I don’t want to be “on board” of anyone, not WallStreetBets, not Reddit, not the hedge funds, not anyone other than the people who want to learn and have a desire to be taught whether it be by my TV shows or the investing club or my articles in Real Money. I don’t think any unbiased person — which is who I am trying to appeal to -- would want it any other way.
Do I wish the critics who have flocked to my Twitter were “nicer?” I really don’t give a damn. I like to attack some, because I am sick of their viciousness coupled with their ignorance, but what you might not realize is that it takes me an hour a day just to block all the people who attack me in vicious and often juvenile ways that are, at times, threatening, and at times downright libelous and criminal.
Why do I put up with it?
Always the same.
I have wanted to help since the answering machine. Despite the “Do the opposite of whatever Cramer says,” I know you would have been wiped out years ago if you had taken the other side of my recommendations at Goldman, or at my hedge fund, or on my show, where I invented and supported FANG and then added an "A" and believed in an "M." Has my trust always performed well? I can’t do most of the things I recommend, because of my rules, which is why I turned it into a club and, yes, I would have buried you most of the time there, too. I always invite people to bet against me. That’s what conviction is all about.
By this time, I know that I don’t have many WallStreetBetters with me, if they were ever with me at all. But I have those who have supported me for years and years and that’s who I play for, not a network, not a website, not an on-line, harsh site group that’s made a lot of money for a few.
Am I paid to do what I do? Yes; I am professional and professionals get paid. Do I give a lot of it away? It’s all documented. Am I deeply flawed? Never said otherwise. Do I deserve the opprobrium? "Deserves" has got nothing to do with it.
Do I get up every morning trying to figure out new ways and thoughts about how to make you money?
Every day of the week. Ever since 1979?
And, my question to the critics? How about you?