|It's like the George Michael Sports Machine on
steroids. A typical Cramer segment this week involved Mike from
New York. After the obligatory Booyas, Mike asked about
Daimler-Chrysler, which had just canned its CEO.
"Mike in New York!!! YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! Daimler-Chrysler??!!
THIS IS NOT THE AUTO COMPANY YOU WANT TO BE IN!!!!!!! I like
It was a rare rejection of a stock from the relentlessly
bullish Cramer, but it followed his primary mantra: "I LIKE TO
OWN BEST OF BREED!!!"
It's one call after another, with Cramer growing increasingly
agitated and loud. You actually start to fear for his health. In
other words, it's great TV.
Whether it's any good
as a finance show is another matter. Cramer
has long existed in a vortex of controversy in the business
news community due to his status as a Wall Street insider.
The man has had a varied and eclectic career that includes a
Harvard education, a stint as a newspaperman, a law degree, a
gig working for former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and a
role in the creation of American Lawyer magazine.
After running a hedge fund on Wall Street for a while, Cramer
burst onto the national media scene when he founded
TheStreet.com in the late '90s.
It was a classic dot-com, rife with new ideas, shaky revenue
prospects and conflicts galore. The national business media were
horrified that an actual trader was running a site that
professed to practice business journalism. The requisite walls
were erected between Cramer's businesses and the site,
essentially divorcing him from editorial control, but the
concern was always right there under the surface. Cramer's
personality didn't help anyone feel better about things.
(A brief aside: Longtime Chronicle readers will remember that
Cramer enticed our former stocks columnist Herb Greenberg away
from print and to TheStreet.com years ago. Although Greenberg
eventually jumped to online competitor Marketwatch.com, he's one
of the only regular guests on "Mad Money, " providing a
relatively sober counterpoint to Cramer's rantings.)
Regardless of what you think of the founder, TheStreet.com is
still around, and Cramer became a star because of it. For a
while, he wrote a column for the old Hearst Examiner. He has a
radio show. A column for New York magazine. And he still writes
Cramer also parlayed his role at TheStreet into a regular gig
on CNBC, sitting opposite arch-conservative economist Larry
Kudlow, best described as Paul Lynde in pinstripes, on the
network's "Kudlow & Cramer" show. That ended when Cramer decided
to throw all caution to the wind and become the Howard Dean of
finance on "Mad Money."
As he says at the top of each show: "Other people want to
make friends.... I just want to make money."
So, is he giving people good advice? Like any stock picker,
it's a mixed bag. Let's take a look at some of his recent
stock-of-the-week picks, provided by viewers of "Mad Money" on
the unaffiliated Money Talk personal finance Web site
-- On April 11, he picked Apple. At the time, it was trading
at $43. On Friday, it closed at $42.65.
-- On April 18, he
chose Pfizer. On that day, it was at $27.75. It
closed Friday at $26.50.
-- On April 28, it was Google. Then: $220. Friday's close:
-- On May 2, he picked Constellation Brands Inc. At the time,
it was trading at $27. It closed at $27.40 on Friday.
-- On May 9, it was the PNC Financial Services Group. Back
then it was at $54.50. On Friday, it closed at $54.82.
So, there you have it. Nothing great, other than Google,
which my 4-year- old could have picked. But no train wrecks,
I guess it's best to take the long disclaimer that runs at
the top of the show to heart. The hilariously long block of text
zooms past the screen at high speed and is essentially
unreadable, but if you go to the Mad Money Web site tells
viewers that Cramer's picks are his own and should be taken with
a huge dose of care.
I say watch the show. For every time he slams a Dell keyboard
on the desk to prove the worth of the company's products. For
every time you swear he's going to stroke out. But not for
advice on your college savings plan.
Mad Money airs at 3, 6 and 9 p.m. on CNBC, which is channel
58 in most of the Bay Area.