Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Risk and reward

About the Oscars upset:

As Michael Lewis pointed out in his excellent profile of 15 year-old stock-inflating phenomenon Jonathan Lebed, you get recognized in business if you take risks and get lucky, not if you balance risk and conservativeness ideally.

(After all, even a 92% likely event only occurs 10 out of every 11 times. Perhaps this Oscars was just the 11th.)

From the article:

What happened next was that CNBC -- which [12 year-old] Jonathan now rose at 5 every morning to watch -- announced a stock-picking contest for students. Jonathan had wanted to join the contest on his own but was told that he needed to be on a team, and so he went and asked two friends to join him. Thousands of students from across the country set out to speculate their way to victory. Each afternoon CNBC announced the top five teams of the day.

To get your name read out loud on television, you obviously opted for highly volatile stocks that stood a chance of doing well in the short term. Jonathan's team, dubbing itself the Triple Threat, had a portfolio that rose 51 percent the first day, which put them in first place. They remained in the Top 3 for the next three months, until in the last two weeks of the contest they collapsed. Even a fourth-place finish was good enough to fetch a camera crew from CNBC, which came and filmed the team in Cedar Grove. The Triple Threat was featured in The Verona-Cedar Grove Times and celebrated on television by the Cedar Grove Township Council.

"From then, everyone at work started asking me if Jonathan had any stock tips for them," said Greg [his father].

"They still ask me," said Connie [his mother].