Jim Cramer is one of the most widely recognized personalities in both the investing and media worlds. He’s made waves and carved a lucrative career as a TV personality, writer, hedge fund manager, investor, and entrepreneur. However you know him, he’s made a name for himself as much for his investment successes as for his opinions and fiery nature.
A native of the Philadelphia area, Jim Cramer spent time as a kid selling concessions at Philadelphia Phillies baseball games. After high school, he graduated from Harvard in 1977 with a degree in government. While at Harvard, he was president and editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson, the university’s prestigious, internationally famous daily paper.
After his undergraduate days, Cramer worked for a couple of years as a journalist for The Tallahassee Democrat. It’s also where he made his first big splash, for he was assigned to cover the Ted Bundy killings, which he attacked with the determination and vigor he’s known for. Although his coverage of Bundy brought him considerable attention, it didn’t take much longer working as a reporter for him to realize that it wasn’t what he wanted to do the rest of his life.
Cramer decided to go to law school after helping launch American Lawyer magazine, so he enrolled at Harvard, where he developed his passion for finances and the stock market, going so far as to leave stock picks on the answering machine of his phone and give investing advice for a fee.
From Law to Finance
After graduating from law school in 1984, Jim Cramer thought briefly about pursuing a law career but chose instead to work as a stockbroker at Goldman Sachs. While there, he also contributed articles and opinion pieces to The New Republic due to the success of a stock pick while in law school that earned a 30% return for The New Republic owner Martin Perentz, which helped him land the job at Goldman Sachs.
In 1987, Cramer founded Cramer & Company, an investment firm that returned 24% during his 14 years there. By the time he retired from the company in 2001, in only one year had the fund experienced negative returns.
In 1996, Cramer co-founded The Street, a financial media site that sells membership packages to everyone from everyday solo investors to institutional ones. Cramer owns a 10% stake in The Street, through which he also manages a monthly paid subscription service called Action Alerts Portfolio, a newsletter that discusses strategies, reveals tips, and shares market commentary and opinions.
The fund has brought Cramer a lot of criticism, as it has underperformed the S&P 500 in total returns since the fund started in 2001. Until 2008, the fund did well, surpassing the S&P in cumulative returns during that time. However, since then, the S&P has beaten the fund every year.
Becoming a TV Personality at CNBC
In 2005, Jim Cramer became the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money”, which focuses on investments and speculations in publicly traded stocks. The show is designed to entertain and educate everyday investors, but it’s not about picking stocks or handing out tips on how to do so. Viewers are supposed to learn how to analyze stocks and the overall market big picture. The show has various segments that discuss different strategies and target multiple aspects of investing, such as diversifying, making and following a plan, recognizing and taking advantage of bullish or bearish periods, etc.
Jim Cramer has not only excelled on television, he’s also a best-selling author of a variety of books on investing. One of his most popular is Get Rich Carefully, a guide to low risk investing that brings high yields. He’s also written Confessions of a Street Addict and Jim Cramer’s RealMoney, among others. Each book delivers real-world investing advice with unique insights conveyed in Cramer’s inimitable direct, no-holds-barred style.
Big Personality Draws Controversy
In spite of, or maybe due to, his big personality and brash predictions, Jim Cramer seems to be a frequent lightning rod for controversy. He’s been accused of reneging on a deal with FOX News and spouting his outlandish opinions or predictions in order to manipulate the market. He’s also been subpoenaed by the SEC, which the commission later rescinded. And, like every other fund manager ever, he has been criticized for his bad stock picks and bad fund performances.
While it’s undeniable that he’s had confrontations, it’s not always clear that the claims against him are legitimate; the FOX News claim that he reneged on a production deal only became a story after Cramer promoted The Street while appearing on one of their broadcasts.
As with many successful people, the criticism doesn’t faze Cramer. In fact, it sometimes seems as if the negative press only makes him more popular and more influential.