Jordan Belfort, 58, is an investor, motivational speaker and author. But he’s better known as the fraudulent New York stockbroker whose life was turned into a Hollywood film.
Leonardo DiCaprio played him in The Wolf of Wall Street, right?
Yes. The role won him a Golden Globe in 2014. He and Belfort are now almost neighbours in LA, where Belfort makes his money as a motivational speaker, charging up to $75,000 per engagement. It’s a long way off what he used to earn trading dodgy stocks. In an interview published in The Red Bulletin in 2019, Belfort said that at its peak his company was earning about $250,000 a day, $30,000 an hour or $500 every minute. But don’t feel too bad for him: in a recent photoshoot, he looks comfortable in his Beverly Hills home, with a big black Mercedes parked outside. His net worth is said to be $2m.
I don’t feel bad for him – he was a crook.
And one of the few Wall Street crooks who went to prison. He was caught operating a “pump and dump” scheme, which meant he would increase the value of “penny stocks” (worth less than $5) by inventing information about the companies, thereby increasing demand. He earnt 50% commission on these stocks – then, once prices went up, he would dump them. Their value would fall and his investors would lose their money (about $200m in all). Belfort was making so much filthy lucre, he also dabbled in money-laundering, using mules to take cash out of the country. He ended up serving 22 months of a four-year sentence for fraud.
Before the Feds caught up with him, what did he do with all that dosh?
Spend, spend, spend. He owned a mansion in Long Island, an estate in the Hamptons, a private jet, a helicopter, a fleet of supercars (including a white Ferrari), three horses and a 167ft yacht once owned by Coco Chanel. The latter was a wedding gift to his second wife, Nadine Caridi, but it sank in the Mediterranean when Belfort demanded that the captain sail into a storm en route to Monaco.
Didn’t he recently admit he was “stoned out of his mind”?
Drugs played a big part in his 1990s risk-taking. While at sea in the Med, he told The Times, he was on the sedative Quaalude and experiencing “a frantic need for movement” when a 50ft wave smashed into his yacht. Italian special forces had to come to the rescue. He was doing a lot of cocaine, too, so his decision-making was “definitely off”. At his lowest point, he thought aliens were breaking into his house. He once even tried to shoot his milkman.
But he was clever with numbers – where did that come from?
Both his parents were accountants and he was obsessed with making money from an early age. As a teenager growing up in Queens, New York, he once earned $20,000 selling Italian ice cream on a local beach. After college he started a food business, selling 2,300kg of beef and fish a week in New York, but by 25 he was bankrupt. He then went into stockbroking, starting his dodgy share-dealing operation, Stratton Oakmont, in the late 1980s. At its height he employed 1,000 telesales staff and Stratton Oakmont became a billion-dollar company. Although wild parties ensued, the workplace was a designated “f***-free zone” between 8am and 7pm, to ensure staff didn’t have sex in the stairwells.
Did he ever pay back the money he took from his clients?
Very little. He was ordered to pay $110m in restitution to his victims, but court documents indicate that he had repaid only $12.8m as of 2018. Yet since coming out of prison he has earned decent money from his bestselling memoir, and he was reportedly paid $1.2m for the film rights.
The little guy always loses – yet Belfort’s now living in Bel Air.
What’s more, after two failed marriages and two children, he’s engaged to an Argentine actress and model called Cristina Invernizzi. He’s been sober since 1997 and these days likes nothing more than a round of golf and a carb-free smoothie. He’s fronting an hour-long documentary on Discovery+ channel called GameStop: The Wall Street Hijack, about the recent rise of the video-game retailer’s stock (streaming from next Thursday). There’s also another book coming and a Wolf of Wall Street “rap musical” is in pre-production on Broadway. He may be reluctant to hand back cash to his victims, but he pays lip service to the idea of remorse, admitting: “I made mistakes and I always felt really bad about it. I still do, a little bit.”
The least he can do is offer some good moneymaking advice.
He does some of that. We all need to embrace blockchain technology such as Bitcoin, he says, because it will revolutionise payments – and because the dollar will be a digital currency within a decade. As for those willing to dabble in the markets, they should hire an Uber. If the driver is talking about GameStop or any other stock, “then it’s probably over”. He says you only find stocks of real value by doing “proper research”.
I’ll try telling that to the armchair traders in our office.