Memoirs of a Minyan: Whaddya Say Y2K?
The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.
Chapter 7: Waddya Say Y2K?
The stock market soared to incredible heights and there was plenty of gold on the horizon-I simply had to find my pot. As the calendar flipped to 2000, I stepped into the new millennium and eyeballed the rainbow.
I already had several conversations with Jim Cramer and Jeff Berkowitz and we were seemingly on the same page. At $400 million, it was much smaller than Galleon but they dangled the elusive word: Partner.
We met on several occasions to discuss particulars. I would join the firm and run the entire trading operation. My base salary was $300,000, which provided the security I was looking for after a few lean years. More enticing was that I would receive a nice slice of the profit pie.
Jim was wildly emotional but from what I could tell, honest and fair. Jeff had become a close friend and was pragmatic and balanced. They complemented each other as partners and my skill-set seemed to mesh equally well.
When I told David Slaine of my plan, he asked me a very simple question. "Do you trust them?"
It was a simple yet critical criterion. When push came to shove, would they watch my back? Would they put my interests on par with their own? Would they do the right thing? I believed they would. We met at the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan and chewed through the remaining details.
The energy was palpable as we talked about the markets, life and the world at large. Jim continued to reference a financial website called TheStreet.com, which he co-founded in 1996 and took public in May 1999. I heard of it but wasn't familiar with what it was or how it fit with money management.
I would soon find out, for better and for worse.
The elasticity of the technology bubble shaped the collective mindset into the perceived reality that a new paradigm was upon us.
For those managing money at the beginning of 2000, the price action was nothing short of surreal. Each day was a journey unto itself, a volatile manifestation of emotion that somehow morphed net worth into self worth at the end of each session.
I couldn't have scripted a better beginning to my newfound existence running the trading operation at Cramer, Berkowitz. After a flurry of emotional buying following the Y2K scare, the NASDAQ dropped 450 points--11%--in a matter of days. It was trial by fire and our desk gelled as if we worked together for years.
They say everything is funny when you're making money and there were giggles all around as the ink dried on my contract. We were all on our best behavior but make no mistake, we were a collection of distinctly powerful personalities with proven formulas for success.
Jeff had a brilliant analytical mind, research director Matt Jacobs was plugged into the Street, Jim played momentum and I used volatility to my advantage. When we were on the same page, it was akin to four chefs mixing the perfect brew. As we captured the violent market swings, we drank the sweet taste of success like nothing I've ever experienced.
In February 2000, Cramer penned his infamous "Winners of the New World" column on TheStreet.com, extolling the virtues of ten high-flying technology stocks. Each of them sat on a parabolic perch after a massive rally but it didn't matter. He believed they were the winners in the new world and tried to convince us in kind.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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