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Memoirs of a Minyan: The Genesis of a Dream


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

Full Steam Ahead

As 2001 ended, my relationship with died with it. They came back a few times with lucrative offers -- a lofty six figure salary and multiple six-figure stock options -- but the numbers didn't register. I told them that I don't associate with people I didn't trust and knew if I worked with them again, I would only have myself to blame.

Our fund finished the year slightly above the flat line and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief that my performance anxiety had a new shelf life. That was the way it worked on Wall Street -- the registers were cleared at the end of December 31st and everyone started from scratch.

I was emotionally spent after September 11th, battling the market and discovering the ugly truth behind the media landscape. I was also fighting the demon of depression, although I wouldn't realize that for a few more years. Seeing what I saw -- the jumpers, the impact and the fireball -- took a heavy, subconscious toll on me.

The year 2002 was a new beginning and I embraced it with open arms and confidence that I could shoulder the load and shed the baggage. I knew gave my position in their new product to fund manager Doug Kass. Doug and I were friends and spoke about the offer before he accepted it.

I had bigger fish to fry as I eyed my immediate future. My primary focus was the fund, where I was entering the second year of a two-year deal. The other was Minyanville, which encapsulated my hopes and dreams. It was more of a mission than a business venture; it was entirely personal and very much an escape.

On weekends and during nights, we worked incessantly on building wire frames that would bring Hoofy and Boo to life. I told Casey I would spend $30,000 on the project but that quickly proved conservative. My intention wasn't to build -- the ambition was much larger than that, perhaps grandiose.

I envisioned a community that bridged Wall Street and Main Street, a world-class platform that educated, entertained and engaged. I wanted to change the world and nothing was going to stop me. Not Jim Cramer, not and certainly not money.

I had a stash of cash and spared no expense. We enlisted the help of John Bell, who was nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects, to illustrate Hoofy and Boo. Casey worked from her Santa Monica home office and created the Minyanville platform.

Profits at the fund were elusive, due in equal parts to the new market dynamic and our admittedly frazzled psyche. I awoke at 5:00 AM each day and managed the fund with Jeff, Matt and our shaken but steady crew before returning home at night to brainstorm on my newfound passion.

Dinners and weekends with friends had to wait. I worked 20-hour days and locked myself in my apartment, turning off the phone and closing the curtains. I wasn't aware I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

I hid from it in Minyanville, a parallel universe with animated critters.

It sounds strange, I know, but it saved my life.

The mood within Cramer Berkowitz was strained as we attempted to forge ahead. I wasn't privy to conversations between Jeff and Jim but assumed they were tenuous. Jim understood I was creating Minyanville and was entirely displeased.

Cramer needed an enemy to motivate him and would create one if necessary.

I wasn't intimidated, which seemed to bother him, but was aware he had influence with our investors. It took a toll on our staff, particularly after experiencing horrors that nobody should be forced to endure. The freewheeling fun that was the hallmark of our corporate culture was gone in no small part because we were no longer beating the Street.

Our sudden mediocrity wasn't a function of Jim's absence. In fact, I would argue that the firm was more functional without his wild, emotional swings. It was simply a new world and we were in the middle of a confused conduit of emotions, alliances and geopolitical agendas.

Our innocence was gone and our country was preparing for war.

Internally, I readied for the exact same thing.


Click here for the next chapter of memoirs, "The Abyss."

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