At the height of his career in the early 90s, Jordan Belfort had it all. By his late twenties, he was a Wall Street multimillionaire, living like a king and partying like a rock star. His stockbroking firm Stratton Oakmont was bankrolling a lifestyle that would one day be immortalised by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
The truth probably isn’t far from the on-screen depiction – he and his cohorts amassed millions of dollars with their underhand “pump and dump” schemes, which involve hyping up a stock until the price rises, then selling it quickly to make a profit at the expense of other investors.
Belfort was born to sell. During the summer after he graduated from high school he and his friend saved $20,000 selling iced water from Styrofoam coolers to people at the local beach. Belfort had found his niche: “I’m one of those natural born salesmen who can sell ice to an Eskimo, oil to an Arab, pork to a rabbi, or anything else you can think of.”
Fast-forward a few years and his résumé reads like that of an industry veteran. He’d filed for bankruptcy by the age of 24; he was laid off from a stockbroking firm due to the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987; and finally, he bought Stratton Oakmont, an “over-the-counter” brokerage house on Long Island that would go on to make him infamous.
Belfort soared to the highest financial heights, earning more than US$50 million a year – a feat that earned him the nickname “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
It was depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street as a “boiler room” – industry slang for a dodgy call centre that sells questionable investments by telephone. The name references the working environment you can expect to find inside these buildings: workers lined up side by side in a small room, partaking in high-pressure work demanding results. The heat is constantly on.
But for all the glitz and glamour that was depicted in Scorsese’s film, Belfort was a real-life scam artist who made a living by lying. It wasn’t long before he was targeted by law enforcement officials, and sentenced to a four-year jail term. The “Wolf of Wall Street” had finally been tamed.
Belfort served 22 months of the four-year term in exchange for a plea deal with the FBI over his pump-and-dump scams – which led to investor losses of approximately US$200 million. Belfort was ordered to pay back US$110.4 million that he’d swindled from stock buyers.
It’s no small feat to become the most successful salesman to ever grace Wall Street, yet Belfort soared to the highest financial heights, earning more than US$50 million a year – a feat that earned him the nickname “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Perhaps it was kismet, but Belfort shared a jail cube with Tommy Chong while serving his sentence, and Chong encouraged him to write about his experiences as a stockbroker. From a high-flying stockbroker who conned his way to earning hundreds of millions in the 1990s, to having his antics immortalised by Leonardo DiCaprio, Belfort has lived a life some of us can only dream of.
The step-by-step sales and persuasion system that made Belfort his millions has never been revealed – until now. His new book, Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling: Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence, and Success is available through Hachette Australia (paperback $29.99, ebook $16.99). Read it and weep.