"THE WOLF OF WALL STREET"
As the founder of Long Island’s infamous brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, Jordan Belfort lived an exorbitant lifestyle on the proceeds of illegal 'pump and dump' schemes. By the age of 34, his firm had taken more than twenty companies’ public and he had amassed a personal fortune well into the hundreds of millions. To law enforcers he was the mastermind behind a multibillion dollar securities fraud empire, but to those he employed, the so called ‘Strattonites’, he was the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’.
His globetrotting lifestyle was the stuff of legends filled with private jets, drug fueled nights and a super model wife. But after years of drug abuse, a $700,000 hotel bill and the destruction of his 256ft super yacht, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’s’ rein came to an end in 1998 with the forced closure of Stratton Oakmont and his arrest for securities fraud.
The story of Jordan Belfort’s dramatic rise and fall, and the insane period in-between, is set to be released as a motion picture in late 2013. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, the film follows Belfort during his reign as the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’.
Jordan Belfort was born and raised in the Jewish community of Long Island, New York. During the summer between completing school and starting university, Belfort and his close childhood friend Elliot Loewenstern earned $20,000 selling Italian ice from Styrofoam coolers to beach goers. Jordan planned on using this money to pay his way through dentistry school. However, this plan changed on his first day of university after being told by the Dean that the “golden age of dentistry was over and not to expect to become rich”.
After a number of failed ventures, including a meat and seafood business with close friend Kenny Greene, Belfort was hired as a 'connector' at the brokerage firm L.F Rothschild. While working for Rothschild, Belfort got a taste of the securities industry and decided that this was his path to becoming a “master of the universe”.
The Rise of the Wolf
After a few years at various brokerage firms, Belfort had perfected his sales pitch and earned enough money to start his own brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont. Jordan recruited a number of childhood friends to fill high level positions throughout the firm. Andrew Greene and Kenny Greene were instated as Oakmont’s Head of Corporate Finance Department and Junior Partner respectively and new comer Daniel Porush was named as a second Junior Partner. Even Jordan’s father Max Belfort got in on the action being named Chief Financial Officer of the firm.
Although Jordan Belfort states that Stratton Oakmont was started with the best of intentions, the firm quickly embraced the shady side of the securities industry. Using a trading scheme known as the pump and dump, Oakmont quickly became one of the largest and most influential brokerage firms in the world and built a reputation for easy money for those that worked there.
As word of Oakmont’s success spread, the firm found itself bombarded with job applications from young and under-educated individuals. Mr. Belfort quickly realized that by hiring those desperate for money and with little training, he was able to mould his employees and keep them loyal to his firm. This in turn created a ‘cult like mentality’ at the firm where employees, known as ‘Strattonites’, would compete, not only on how much money they were making, but how quickly they could spend their new found wealth. The relatively young age of many Strattonites also led to a party culture including drug use, gambling and prostitution.
As Stratton Oakmont’s influence grew, Jordan Belfort found himself in a position to finance the founding of other brokerage firms. These firms, Monroe Parker Securities and Biltmore Securities, headed by childhood friends Alan Lipsky and Elliot Loewenstern, drastically increased Jordan’s ability to control stock prices. Jordan also invested in private companies such as Dollar Time Group and Steve Madden Shoes. Belfort’s ability to manipulate stock prices combined with taking his own companies public led to massive profits. A famous example is the IPO of Steve Madden Shoes, which reportedly earned Jordan $20 million in under 3 minutes.
During this period of new found wealth and power, Jordan started embracing the party lifestyle lived by many of those in his business and social circles. The culture of Stratton Oakmont, with Daniel Porush as the ring leader, promoted the use of drugs, the hiring of prostitutes and the spending of money. Jordan fell into this culture head first. Cocaine and Quaaludes became part of his daily routine after being introduced to the drugs by associate Elliot Lavigne. He divorced his wife to marry super model Nadine Caridi. Even as a newlywed he would often hire ‘luscious’ 'blue chips'. Jordan Belfort’s memoir from the period, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, paints a picture of drug fuel chaos. From flying helicopters while stoned on Quaaludes, to $700,000 hotel bills and the sinking of his super yacht, "The Nadine", these events are just a drop in the ocean to the mischief Jordan Belfort got up to.
As Stratton Oakmont continued to grow, Belfort investigated ways to hide his ill-gotten gains from the government. With the help of business partner Gary Kaminsky, he opened a Swiss bank account at Union Bancaire Privee in Geneva. The account was opened by and in the name of Patricia Mellor, his wife’s aunt. Belfort recruited friends and family to smuggle his money from The States to Switzerland often by strapping cash to their bodies.
The Fall of the Wolf
As Stratton Oakmont’s wealth and influence grew, the SEC became interested in the firm’s use of shady trading practices. A long investigation led to charges being placed against the firm and Belfort. After years of back and forth, a settlement was reached. As part of the settlement, Belfort was banned from running a brokerage firm and therefore was forced to sell his share of Stratton Oakmont to Daniel Porush.
Shortly after the sale, Belfort became aware through associate Richard Dietl that he was under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. The fear of being arrested pushed him into heavy drug use, particularly cocaine and Quaaludes. During this period, Belfort was arrested for driving under the influence and was found to have cocaine, methaqualone, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, MDMA, opiates and marijuana in his system. Daily cocaine use caused Belfort to become paranoid of close friends and family, especially after hearing that his Swiss banker and associate Gary Kaminsky had been arrested for money laundering, and both were co-operating against him. Police were called to the family home after a drug fuelled fight with his wife. He is reported to have kicked his wife down a flight of stairs before attempting to drive through their garage door with his children in the car. Belfort was arrested and detained in a mental hospital. At first he refused to attend a rehab clinic, but after much insistence from family and friends he agreed.
Belfort spent nearly three weeks in rehab before being be released. He stayed clean for a number a months before being arrested at his home by the FBI for the long standing money laundering and securities fraud cases against him. After co-operating against his colleagues, Belfort was sentenced to twenty two months in prison and ordered to pay back $100 million dollars to investors. During this period he and Nadine filed for divorce.
Today, Jordan Belfort tours internationally as a motivational speaker and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. He has published two books about his life, "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Catching the Wolf of Wall Street" both of which have been published in forty countries and translated into 18 languages.