This is reprinted from a WSJ article from March but is appropriate today for various reasons:
Over the past decade or so I’ve accumulated a number of people who hate me. The list below is not exhaustive, but it provides a guide to possible reasons you might be in that crowd.
I make you $41 million
A reader of mine showed me his company. He had received an offer for about $10 million and wanted to know what I thought. I offered to put his company through an official auction process. I dressed up the company ( “dress up” meant sort of a cross between a cheap Halloween costume or something you might wear in a second-grade school production) and solicited offers from about 20 different companies. We ended up taking an offer for $41 million. I remember sitting in the room with him at the lawyer’s office when the cash got wired to him. His life changed that second.
How to sell a company: It’s what I call the 20-6-3-1 rule (too many numbers to be an official rule):
- Send a letter or phone call to 20 possible suitors
- About six of them will respond with interest and want followup-calls
- About two to three of those will make offers
- One will be the winner.
I proceeded to set up his family office with the money, guaranteeing him and his 27 children (an exaggeration, but not by much) generations of financial security. I then went and set up my own fund of funds and that upset him enough that he no longer talks to me. There’s more to the story, but suffice to say I made him $41 million and now he doesn’t speak to me.
I make you $3 million
Another friend was an investor in an Internet company in 1999. I introduced him to a public company that was doing a roll-up. The company ended up buying my friend’s company. He made about $3 million. I asked for a fee and he said “no.” “Welcome to the real world,” he said. That’s the last time I waited to ask for a fee on a deal.
I write a book (oh, and I make you money)
When I wrote my first book – the best-selling fiction roman a clef, “Trade Like a Hedge Fund,” the hedge fund manager I was trading for fired me. He didn’t like my book. He then wrote on his message board that I had cost him money. He had to recant when my associate told him we have copies of the checks he paid us for our performance fees.
I recommend a stock that you lose money on
This happens, albeit rarely. About a year and a half ago, for instance, I recommended the natural gas ETF, UNG. It has gone down pretty disastrously since then. I still get sarcastic emails thanking me. I rarely get emails thanking me for GNW (up 1,200%), CYCC, DNDN, ASTE, BIDU, or Dendreon (DNDN). In fact, an unnamed biotech writer accused me of being paid by hedge funds to recommend DNDN when it was at $5 (it’s now at about $37). Dozens of other stocks have done well since I wrote about them.
But it’s fair to hate me for your money loss. After all, I probably make most of your financial decisions for you and maybe even some of your relationship and family decisions (home schooling, for instance, or watch “Lost” vs. “24″).
I recommend a stock be sold or shorted
When I recommended a short on FSLR (then at $154, now at $112, despite the market making recent highs) there were these comments in the message boards:
“What an idiot AND yellow journalist.”
“ I look forward to pointing out in the future just how wrong you were about solar in general and FSLR in particular.”
“Who’s paying you this time?”
Again, I totally understand. If I were long a stock, and someone was recommending selling that stock, I might also hate them. I might accuse them of illegal activity or scream personal names at them. Why not? I have nothing better to do with my day then shout loudly on a message board.
When I went on Yahoo’s Tech ticker to say that Obama’s bank proposal will be doomed (which, incidentally, it was) one astute commenter said, “Altucher is a clown who will say anything to get his horribly ugly mug on this show.”
Or when I went on CNBC once there was a Yahoo message board poster saying, “There was some homeless looking guy named James Altucher recommending stocks on CNBC today. Pretty cool of CNBC”
I probably should never go on videos or TV again but my kids like seeing me on them and so I try to go on as much as possible.
Some lessons I’ve learned from the people who hate me:
- If you make people money, make sure you get a huge fee. This way it doesn’t matter if they hate you afterward since money buys happiness.
- If you recommend a stock, try to make sure it goes up immediately. You have about 24 hours, or else people start hating you.
- If you recommend shorting a stock, make sure you say loud and clear that no hedge funds are paying you and that you, personally, are not short the stock. They still won’t believe you but at least you said it up front.
- Try not to be ugly if you go on TV. Or else maybe wear a mask. It’s OK if you are ugly if you follow rule No. 2 above.
Or as Warren Buffett has told me (and the other 28,000 people who showed up for Berkstock 2003 in Omaha): “The best way to be loved is to be lovable.”