Love him or hate him, Jim Cramer is America's most famous stock market pundit. The former hedge fund manager is the host of CNBC's Mad Money, an author and chairman of TheStreet.com Inc.
Cramer says he became interested in the stock market in the second grade. As a student at Harvard, he nursed a passion for journalism instead, serving as president of the Crimson before working as a reporter for four years. Determined to make some decent money, Cramer returned to Cambridge to enroll at Harvard Law. He joined Goldman Sachs as a broker after earning his J.D., then headed off on his own in 1987 with $250 million in capital and office space provided by hedge fund king Michael Steinhardt. Cramer spent more than a decade managing a modest pool of money for Steinhardt and Peretz as well as media types like Steve Brill, Kurt Andersen, and author James Stewart, among others. But by the mid-'90s, Cramer's attention had started to shift away from the trading desk as he started publishing regular pieces in New Republic, Worth, SmartMoney, and Slate. In 1996, he co-founded the financial news site TheStreet.com with Peretz and started popping up as a regular talking head on cable. With partner Jeff Berkowitz tending to the hedge fund business, in 2000 Cramer stepped down from the company to focus on his burgeoning media career.
Cramer certainly won't go down in history as one of the era's most talented or successful hedge fund managers. His gift for self-promotion, though, puts him up there with the very best, which explains why he's become such a ubiquitous media presence. While he formerly wrote a column for New York and has published a handful of books, it's his nightly show on CNBC that has made him a bonafide star. Originally configured as a two-person affair, Kudlow & Cramer, it quickly morphed into the frenzied, heart-attack-inducing Mad Money, and is one of the network's highest rated broadcasts. But while he plays well with mom-and-pop investors in the heartland, his peers in the financial community have never been quite as enthusiastic. Cramer has been lambasted by financial journalists for everything from his flip-flop approach to the market to his over-the-top on-air persona, which can make the stock market seem like a game. [Image via Getty]