A Story of Greed, Sex, Lies, Betrayal, Crime, Money and Trading
Jordan Belfort's 'The Wolf of Wall Street' is a biography chronicling his time as head of the trading firm Stratton Oakmont. Belfort ruled over his company like a cult leader, each Stratton trader swearing their allegiance to the undisputed master of their trading floor.
With Belfort at the helm Stratton became the undisduted king of the illegal trading practice nicknamed 'pump-and-dump'. This is where brokers artificially inflate the price of a stock through selling it to the unsuspecting public by using false predictions about future growth prospects. It is estimated that this resulted in investor losses of approximately $200 million.
Jordan Belfort: The Wolf of Wall Street
So by day Belfort made millions trading and by night he lead the most hedonistic lifestyle one can imagine. It wasn't uncommon for him to do vast amounts of cocaine, then partake in the abuse of the sedative-hyptnotic drug Quaaludes, before drowning himself in alcohol then flying home in his private helicopter to his model girlfriend and New York mansion.
They are numerous stories throughout the book each one just a little bit crazier than the last. It's difficult to know if Jordan's life really was as dysfunctional as describes or if his cocaine riled, alcohol fueled, barbiturate saturated brain exaggerated everything. On second thoughts, the later point probably negates the first there.
One of the most dramatic stories involves Jordan out at sea. Belfort owned a 120 foot yacht, named after his second wife Nadine. After Belfort bought it he had to make a few changes. Yes, even though it was good enough for previous owner Coco Chanel, Belfort had to extend the original hull so that the boat stretched to over 165 foot and had its own helicopter landing pad and eight jet skiis. In the summer of 1997, Belford and his motley crew took the ship out in storm conditions against the advice of the captain. With the gale force winds and crashing waves the ship duly sank, just off the east coast of Sardinia and all on board had to be rescued by The Italian Special Forces.
Although fascinated by the story and immediately gripped by the decadent lifestyle that Belford ran, I soon became disappointed by what Belfort omitted. The story describes how Belfort started out in the business, with nothing but ambition and $5 dollars in his pocket, and then we skip ahead to him being at the head of Stratton. We don't really get an idea of how he build up his company, the real details of how he manipulated the public into buying the stock, all whilst building a pathological loyalty within the organisation from his staff.
The hedonistic stories are great but it's a bit like watching an action movie with two hours of explosions and absolutely no storyline. It all gets a bit repetitive after a while.
Another serious omission is how Belfort feels about swindling nearly $200 million out of the general public. I presume that Jordan doesn't actually care at all but any thoughts on this are entirely glossed over and not even mentioned.
In 1998 Belfort was indicted on charges of securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with the FBI to reduce his sentence, he served twenty-two months in federal prison
So it's not quite a 'blue chip' book but if you've got a few hours to kill and want to see how close a man can get to killing himself through drugs, drink and ego, then give this book a try.If you want a book about trading I would give this one a miss.