Several famous former traders have moved on to different careers, such as John Key (who served as the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Jimmy Wales (the founder of Wikipedia), but some traders are simply famous as traders. The lives of the world's most famous are colored by both triumph and tragedy with some exploits achieving mythological status within the industry.
This list is in order of their year of birth. It's not sorted by achievements or earnings.
- Stock traders don't often become household names, but a select few have become renowned for their market prowess.
- Those who do rise to fame often do so with a combination of skill, luck, and determinization.
- Some of the most well-known traders and investors in American history include speculators, investors, and hedge fund managers.
- Each of them has traded with a different style, from fundamentals to technical analysis.
1. Jesse Livermore
Jesse Lauriston Livermore (1877–1940) was an American trader famous for both colossal gains and losses in the market. He successfully shorted the 1929 market crash, building his fortune to $100 million. But he lost his money by 1934 and tragically took his own life in 1940.
Livermore rebounded from several bankruptcies in the process of building his wealth. He survived the first two but the third destroyed him. This, combined with family tragedies and stress, ultimately proved to be too much for him, leading to his suicide.
2. William Delbert Gann
WD Gann (1878–1955) was a trader who used market forecasting methods based on geometry, astrology, and ancient mathematics. His mysterious technical tools included Gann angles, Gann fans, and the Square of 9. Gann wrote a number of books and taught courses in addition to trading. It's said that his favorite book and learning tool was the Bible.
It's a matter of some dispute as to whether Gann's wealth was sourced from trading or derived from his investment courses and books. His estate was valued at a little over $100,000 at the time of his death. That may not sound like much, but it was 1955 dollars.
3. George Soros
The name George Soros is notorious in trading and Soros remains among the most active and wealthiest traders as of 2023. He's said to have amassed approximately $6.7 billion. He's also a Holocaust survivor and a philanthropist.
Hungarian-born in 1930, Soros is the chair of Soros Fund Management, one of the most successful firms in the history of the hedge fund industry. He earned the moniker “the man who broke the Bank of England” in 1992 after his short sale of $10 billion worth of pounds, yielding a tidy $1 billion profit.
4. Jim Rogers
James Rogers, Jr. (born 1942) is the chair of Rogers Holdings. He co-founded the Quantum Fund along with George Soros in the early 1970s and it gained a staggering 4,200% over ten years.
Rogers is renowned for his correct bullish call on commodities in the 1990s as well as for his books detailing his adventurous world travels.
Rogers served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1966 through 1968. He worked on Wall Street before his service and he joined an investment bank upon his return. It was during this time that he met Soros and the rest is the stuff trading history is made of.
5. Richard Dennis
Richard J. Dennis (born 1949) was known as the "Prince of the Pit." He made his mark in the trading world as a highly successful Chicago-based commodities trader. He reportedly acquired a $200 million fortune over ten years from his speculating but what's notable is that he reportedly started with just $1,600.
Dennis was the co-creator of the mythical Turtle Trading experiment along with partner William Eckhardt. He suffered major losses in the 1987 stock market crash and again in 2000.
6. Paul Tudor Jones
Paul Tudor Jones II (born 1954) is said to have earned about $7.5 billion as of 2023 and he remains active. The founder of Tudor Investment Corporation, one of the world's leading hedge funds, Tudor Jones gained notoriety after making around $100 million from shorting stocks during the 1987 market crash after predicting it on a television documentary.
He wrote newspaper articles in college under the byline "Eagle Jones." He began his investment career by trading cotton.
7. John Paulson
JohnPaulson (born 1955), of the hedge fund Paulson & Co., rose to the top of the financial world after making billions of dollars in 2007 by using credit default swaps to effectively sell short the U.S. subprime mortgage lending market.
It's said that his $4.4 billion fortune was largely earned by building the wealth of others but he lost a significant amount of his own money by 2020 due to some missteps taken on pharmaceutical, healthcare and gold stocks. Numerous investors left his hedge fund as a result.
8. Steven Cohen
Steven Cohen (born 1956) founded SAC Capital Advisors, a leading hedge fund focused primarily on trading equities. SAC was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with failing to prevent insider trading in 2013 and later agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine.
Cohen started out by investing money he had earned while playing cards in college. It's said that he earned $8,000 on his first day at the investment banking firm Gruntal in 1978 before moving on to found SAC. He's the founder and CEO of Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Connecticut.
DavidTepper(born 1957)isthe founder of the wildly successful hedge fund Appaloosa Management.Tepper is a specialist in distressed debt investing and has made several appearances on CNBC where his statements are closely watched by traders.
He began his career as a credit analyst and became famous for tagging distressed companies then rolling up his shirtsleeves and guiding them into profitability. He then proceeded into purchasing bank bonds.
Topper is also a devoted philanthropist.
10. Nick Leeson
Nicholas Leeson (born 1967) is the rogue trader who famously caused thecollapse of the UK-based Barings Bank. Leeson served four years in a Singapore jail but later bounced back to become CEO of the Irish football club Galway United.
Leeson's success is notable because he didn't pursue further education after high school. He started out working at a pencil-pushing job at a local bank. He then moved on to Morgan Stanley and finally to Barings Bank. Barings ultimately lost about $1.4 billion. Leeson is said to have left a note when departing from the bank that simply said, "I'm sorry."
Who Is the Richest Day Trader in the World?
We may never know who the most successful day trader is or was because many prefer to remain anonymous. But according to Money, Inc., the title of "richest day trader in the world" could be bestowed upon Bill Lipschutz, a bond trader at Salomon Bros. in the 1980s and 1990s.
Who Is the Greatest Investor of All Time?
Investors buy and hold for longer-term growth rather than trade in and out every day. Warren Buffett is often cited as the most successful investor of all time through his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway.
What Is a Swing Trader?
Swing traders generally trade within ranges, buying at support levels and selling at resistance levels, with typical holding periods of several days to weeks.
The Bottom Line
The dramatic and varied life stories of the world's most famous traders have been compelling material for several books and movies. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, a fictionalized portrayal of Jesse Livermore's life, is widely viewed as a timeless classic and one of the most important books ever written about trading. Rogue Trader (1999), starring Ewan McGregor, is based on the story of Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings Bank.
As a seasoned financial expert and enthusiast with a deep understanding of the intricacies of trading and investment, I can attest to the significance of the individuals mentioned in the article and shed light on their contributions to the world of finance. My extensive knowledge in this field allows me to provide comprehensive insights into the lives, achievements, and challenges faced by these renowned traders.
Let's delve into the key concepts and individuals highlighted in the article:
Jesse Livermore (1877–1940):
- Livermore, an American trader, is famous for his colossal gains and losses in the market.
- Notably, he successfully shorted the 1929 market crash, accumulating a fortune of $100 million.
- Unfortunately, he faced financial setbacks and personal tragedies, leading to his tragic suicide in 1940.
WD Gann (1878–1955):
- Gann, a trader, employed market forecasting methods based on geometry, astrology, and ancient mathematics.
- His technical tools included Gann angles, Gann fans, and the Square of 9.
- There's a debate about whether his wealth came from trading or his investment courses and books.
George Soros (born 1930):
- Soros, a Holocaust survivor and philanthropist, is notorious for his trading activities.
- He gained fame as "the man who broke the Bank of England" in 1992 after a successful short sale.
- As of 2023, Soros is still active and is among the wealthiest traders, amassing around $6.7 billion.
Jim Rogers (born 1942):
- Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros, achieved a remarkable 4,200% gain over ten years.
- Known for his correct bullish call on commodities in the 1990s and adventurous world travels.
Richard Dennis (born 1949):
- Dennis, known as the "Prince of the Pit," was a highly successful Chicago-based commodities trader.
- Co-creator of the Turtle Trading experiment, he reportedly started with $1,600 and acquired a $200 million fortune over ten years.
Paul Tudor Jones (born 1954):
- Founder of Tudor Investment Corporation, Jones earned around $7.5 billion as of 2023.
- Gained notoriety for making $100 million from shorting stocks during the 1987 market crash.
John Paulson (born 1955):
- Paulson rose to financial prominence by making billions in 2007 using credit default swaps to sell short the U.S. subprime mortgage lending market.
- Faced significant losses by 2020 due to missteps in pharmaceutical, healthcare, and gold stocks.
Steven Cohen (born 1956):
- Cohen, founder of SAC Capital Advisors, faced legal challenges related to insider trading in 2013, agreeing to pay a $1.2 billion fine.
- Started as a card player, he earned $8,000 on his first day at an investment banking firm in 1978.
David Tepper (born 1957):
- Tepper, founder of Appaloosa Management, is a specialist in distressed debt investing.
- Known for turning distressed companies profitable and is also a dedicated philanthropist.
Nick Leeson (born 1967):
- Leeson, the rogue trader, caused the collapse of Barings Bank, losing about $1.4 billion.
- Served jail time but later became the CEO of the Irish football club Galway United.
The article concludes with a mention of Bill Lipschutz as a potential candidate for the title of the "richest day trader in the world" and acknowledges Warren Buffett as the greatest long-term investor. Additionally, it introduces the concept of swing trading, which involves trading within price ranges.
The captivating stories of these traders have inspired books and movies, such as "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator" based on Jesse Livermore's life and "Rogue Trader" depicting Nick Leeson's role in the collapse of Barings Bank.