Making a Killing With Jim Cramer

Making a Killing With Jim Cramer

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because this Wall Street maven has some advice.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Jim Cramer has managed the magical trick of making whatever really happens on Wall Street sing with the kind of brio that befits the terror or thrill of either losing or winning billions of dollars on stock trades. First as a hedge fund manager, then as host of Mad Money, and now with OZY’s co-founder and CEO on The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.


Carlos Watson: Now I’m going to push you, Jim. I love you, but I’m going to push you. You love to say if the superstar has a character problem, let them go. Do you do that with your stock picks? When you know you’ve got a difficult character at CEO, do you let that stock go or do you keep holding onto it for a little bit longer?

Jim Cramer: Steve Jobs is probably the most difficult. I remember listening to Walter Isaacson tell me that on the day that … the day before he died, his daughter came in, and he’d made some expletive about how she looked. And yet, I say own Apple, don’t trade it. So, you’ve got a point there. Maybe you need to have a stronger coach to counteract that. [Coach] Andy Reid … again, I think he’s had some troubled players. But you know what? He’s had trouble in his personal life. He’s had some unfortunate … he lost his son.

And when that happens, I think everything is kind of pretty minor and he can handle it. So I think you’re right, in the right coach. With the wrong coach, it doesn’t work. But some coaches need all choirboys. That was getting to be the rap about Coach Pederson in Philadelphia [2016-2020], that he just needed choirboys, no thugs. Sometimes you can get the thugs and treat them the right way, be a mentor to them. And you want them, you want them.

Watson: All right, who is Jim Cramer as an employee? Is he a choirboy, is he a thug?

Cramer: Choirboy. Choirboy. Until I got my own company. And then, I was about as bad as you could be. I mean, OBJ [Odell Beckham Jr.] … OBJ would say nasty things if he weren’t in. I would say nasty things if I were in. So I know who I was once I owned the joint. But then I go back and I work at CNBC, and I have an amazing team. And by the way, everyone always says they have an amazing team. But no, I mean … we just celebrated my executive producer, it was her 45th birthday. … It’s OK, she had the number four and five and balloons. We don’t even know what to do without each other. I mean, because of COVID obviously and we’re lucky enough to have jobs, so I’m happy about that. But because of COVID, we didn’t get to hang out. We didn’t get to go out for a birthday.

And we lead a very horizontal life here. Where there really is … The vertical nature of a lot of places, including the shop that I ran, I find to be, in retrospect, a big mistake, because it makes people feel like that they either have to rise up or leave. And to run a horizontal means that you really get a chance to get to know people and like them. And I’m grateful to have a horizontal now.

But look, I wanted to stick it to the man, at one point in my career. And then arguably, maybe I became the man, who knows? But I’ve got to tell you I’m happier. And I know this is going to sound silly, but the Dalai Lama … I know I’m Jim Cramer, but humor me.

Watson: OK …

Cramer: The Dalai Lama wrote this book where he said … he kind of pivoted. The Dalai Lama pivoted. And he went on to say, listen, what he wanted you to do was good works. But then he realized that only if you were happy could you do the kind of good works that he wanted. And I find that that’s kind of how I feel about work. Your best work will be done if you’re happy. And to be happy means that someone isn’t over your head screaming at you. And I was that person, I was the screamer, and I’m not anymore. And the times that I have, I think are so few and far between, that when I do scream, one of my very loyal associates, when I apologized, he said, “For what?” and I realized maybe I had made it, maybe I had it under control, but it’s taken a lot.

I have to tell you, and I don’t mind my saying that it was mental illness, I think, in a lot of ways that made it so, that I was too angry. I was too angry versus the situations. It was irrational. So I sought help. And I’m not treating people the way I did at one time. And I wished that I could have just done it, by just, abracadabra. But I needed help, because I didn’t know, because I didn’t know how angry I was.

And sometimes … I mean, was it anger management? OK, call it what you want, but I had to get control of my temper. And I was like a true Philadelphian in the stands, screaming. I can still do that at sports, but my temper has no place at a job, at a really good company. You have to control your temper. And I had a real temper problem. Actually, from my father.

Watson: Oh, interesting. Is that where you think you got it from, from your pop?

Cramer: Oh, yeah. And it was unchecked by my mom. He would scream and yell, and think that that gave you the great results. I was scared of him. Until I was 40, and I said I’ve got to figure out what to do, and I bought season tickets for me and for him, at the Eagles, so that we can have something in common. Because what I saw that I was doing was repeating a lot of what he did. Which was, he was intolerant of people who made mistakes. Whether it be me because I got a B, or whether it be my sister, because she was against the war in Vietnam and he wasn’t. And I had to change. I’m glad I did, because life is much more fun when you’re nicer than when you’re mean. I know that sounds soporific, but Carlos, it’s real.


Watson: But your dad … do you know why he was angry? Do you have any sense where that came from?

Cramer: Yeah, I do. He was very unsuccessful in business. He liked to … versus his friends, versus his relatives. Even though he made peace with himself in what he did, he sold boxes and bags to retailers. In the end, he ended up developing, at the age of 73, he got a good little business going, selling doggy bags to restaurants in Philadelphia that were notoriously cheap.

But we didn’t have enough money. And we were always scrapping for money, and it was visible. My father would come home, and he would be on the road a lot and he wouldn’t have made any sales, and so he would just go into his room. He would not stop to say hi; he’d just go in his room. My mom would say, “Dad had a tough day. Dad had a tough day. Let him alone. Dad had a tough day. Tread … tread lightly.” And it was because he didn’t do well that day.

There were a lot more days that he did poorly than he did well because being a salesman and being on the road is very hard. I’m not saying he took it out on us. I’m just saying he was miserable. It wasn’t until later, when he didn’t have to worry about his kids, when he didn’t have to worry about our health care, and didn’t have to worry that we were going to be successful in his eyes, then he became nice. And it was tough because I know why he wasn’t upset. I mean, we had a family where everybody was successful. And my father felt … he didn’t realize he was successful in so many other ways. Instead, he just thought about the money.

And it is such a shame. But that’s America, where … we walk around and you see that you have health, and you got your kids doing things, and there’s a lot of good things in life, but if it comes down to the dollar, then you can, in this country, feel like you’ve been unsuccessful. So, Carlos, it was tough, because he had so much success, he just didn’t know it. And I’m not being a Pollyanna. He had two kids who love him. I mean, I’ve got to tell you in these new days, kids don’t love you.

I mean, they love you, but holy cow, I mean the texts … the texts. I mean, you know, “Like, Dad, why are you calling me?,” “Oh, I wanted to hear your voice.” “Dad, Dad.” I mean, when I hear the word “Dad,” what that means is, I’m an idiot. It was never like, “Hi Dad!” It was like, “Dad!”

My father … I was like the biggest lapdog. My father had this typewriter when he’s 90, and he always had a ribbon. He said, “Jimmy, or Jamesy, could you put the ribbon in?” He was always knocking the ribbon out, and I was putting it always in.


Watson: Who is the most talented person you’ve come across? Who are the top three of all time?

Cramer: I’m going to say some people are a little controversial. OK. So first is going to be Bill Clinton. I thought he was really smart. Had a great view of the world. I didn’t think he was necessarily a hard-left Democrat. I thought he was uniter. I thought that he could make things better for everybody and that was his goal. I love the fact that he grew up poor and then did very well at Georgetown and Yale. I know he did things wrong, which does not … I’m not excusing anything because he’s a deeply flawed man, but that’s OK too. Because most of us are deeply flawed. So that’s No. 1.

No. 2, because I’m from Philly, Mike Schmidt. I got to meet him and spent a day with him and I could not believe it. Mike Schmidt is what made me realize that we were not losers, OK? I thought we were losers until Mike Schmidt. Now Mike Schmidt is the greatest third baseman ever, ever to play the game.

Schmitty was the best. Schmitty sat next to my mom. My mom won season tickets to the Sixers. She loved basketball and they only won nine games that year. Schmitty was next to her and Schmitty said, “I hate this town. I hate this town because you could go three for four and the fourth time, they boo you.”

My mother said Schmitty was … she got to know him and she said there was no one like him. He was so humble and down-to-earth and every boo hurt. He hated the boos. I mean, he said, “I don’t know what to do. Philadelphia doesn’t like me. I don’t know how I can be better at my job.” Now, would I put him in the pantheon if he wasn’t sweet to Louise? No. But he loved my mom like she was somebody famous.

She sat next to him, and she would come home and say, “Oh, Mike is … oh, he’s had a tough day today. Someone said something nasty to him at the supermarket.” And I’m thinking Mike Schmidt and my ma are buddies. I mean, come on. He’s the greatest you’ve ever had and we’re buddies. We’re buddies.

Then the last one I’m going to say, and you’re going to say, “Oh, come on Jim. You’re just a syrupy old guy.” But I’m going to mention my wife. Because my wife is … it’s our second marriage, both of our second marriages, OK? Lisa lost her daughter when her daughter was 2 and a half years old to a heart attack after a heart transplant.

When I met her, I realized, “Holy cow, can she ever handle me?” I am nothing versus what she’s handled and she is a Titan. … She sold real estate. She was a broker, and now she does a lot of projects that we work on together. But I see people dismiss her all the time. They dismiss her. I can always tell who I like, Carlos. It’s a person who wants to talk to her and not me.

Now I would nominate one Joe Biden who did that to me because Joe Biden had read that my wife had lost a daughter and he said, “Go away. I want to speak to your wife.” Twenty minutes later, which … he’s president of the United States so that’s a great thing. They were both in tears, totally, totally cool.