Outbreak of Madness Sweeps Ames

BY OHIA AMADI

Photo by Amy Tay

On February 1, Jim Cramer and his crew from CNBC’s investment program “Mad Money” took over HLS’s Ames Courtroom kicking off the “Mad Money Back to School Tour.” Trademark bull and bear plush toys lined the judges’ benches set against a backdrop of monitors looping footage of somersaulting cheerleaders. The excitement and anticipation were palpable. After an initial wait, attendees were treated to their first glimpse of Cramer who emerged to thunderous applause and shouts of his signature “Booyah!” from a capacity crowd complete with its share of painted faces and program-related temporary tattoos.

Cramer, an alum of both Harvard College and HLS, has worn many hats during his career. As an undergrad he was President and Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Crimson. After graduation he worked as a reporter for a number of newspapers and helped Steve Brill launch American Lawyer magazine before heading to HLS. After receiving his JD, Mr. Cramer went to work for Goldman Sachs in sales and trading. He later left Goldman to found Cramer Berkowitz, a hedge fund with compounded returns of 24% for the 15 years which he was there. He retired from the hedge fund in 2001. Since then Mr. Cramer has founded TheStreet.com and is a veteran of a number of CNBC shows in addition to Mad Money including America Now and Kudlow & Cramer. Cramer is the author of several books including Confessions of a Street Addict and most recently Jim Cramer’s Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World.

For those not familiar with the show, it might be hard to believe that a program primarily dedicated to personal investing could cause such a commotion, but such is the appeal of Mad Money and Jim Cramer. Cramer has become well-known, not only for his investment savvy but equally for his in-your-face brand of delivery. The result is a hybrid – part-Wall Street, part gameshow.

A traditional show is composed of multiple segments, including interviews with well-known guest speakers, a “lightning round” where audience members get a chance to ask Cramer about particular stocks, or a call-in segment, to name a few. Cramer also makes his own particular recommendations. Segments such as the lightning round are made more exciting by the fact that Cramer has no prior indication of which stocks that audience members will ask about. His answers are unscripted, drawing from a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the equities market.

With the “Back to School” theme, Cramer tried to focus on investing for younger people. Because students tend to have little disposable income, he recommended stocks such as Bookham, a stock then trading under $7.00/share. He also advised that students were at an ideal age to include risk in their stock portfolios.

Other highlights from the February 1 show included a guest appearance by New York Attorney General and 2006 gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, a former classmate of Cramer at HLS, spoke about the positive impact that his campaign against Wall Street corruption has had on the financial markets in increased transparency and ethical business conduct.

A more non-traditional audience Q&A followed where Cramer was asked – to name a few questions: whether he was a lady’s man as an undergrad (“They were the best times of [his] life, second only to his 3 years of law school”); whether he was ever a member of the Communist party (He thinks Marx “was just dead wrong.”) and what he thought the mix of luck and skill were in investing (“50/50” and “Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.”).

A nod should also be given to comedian Greg Wilson who helped fill the numerous down times during taping. His edgy, candid humor both shocked and amused the Harvard crowd. Though admittedly toned down from his club act, his comedy spanned the gamut from effete Starbucks employees to the persistence of bird flu.

Overall, it seemed that people enjoyed the taping whether they were longtime fans or first-timers. As 1L Chuck Walker said, on the one hand, he came because he is “a sucker for a cute blonde” (referring to how he initially heard of the taping), but more seriously that “it was great to see a successful HLS grad come back to campus” and that he was glad that he had taken the “opportunity to see [Cramer] in action.”

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