By now, you’ve probably heard of the GameStop saga that’s taking Wall Street and Washington, D.C. by storm. But do you know most of the key players? How about how they could be affecting your wallet if you currently invest in the market?
Here’s your guide to the people behind one of the biggest weeks in Wall Street history. There are amateur short sellers who want to see everything collapse, lawmakers eager to regulate both sides of the controversy, and billionaires voicing their support of underdogs.
GameStop Investor Ryan Cohen
As recently as 2019, investors had all but written off GameStop, the video game company occupying space in strip malls and conventional shopping malls, selling used video games, and offering players pennies on the dollar for their used merch. In June 2019, the stock was trading for less than $5 and stores were closing all over suburbia. Now, many who bought low are selling high after a message board made it their mission to drive the stock’s price up.
Ryan Cohen, now a majority shareholder of GameStop, first purchased stock in the company in August of 2020 and joined the GameStop board on Jan. 11 of this year. Many attribute the stock’s rise to Cohen’s presence, according to Bloomberg – after he purchased Chewy, an online pet supply retailer, in 2001, he turned the e-commerce site into an industry leader, and many thought he’d do the same for GameStop. In 2017, Cohen sold the company to pet supply retailer PetSmart for a staggering $3.35 billion.
Also according to Bloomberg, his stake in the company has soared to over $1 billion this week, though with the stock’s price swinging up and down by the minute, that number is changing in real time. Cohen clearly understands how to convert retail business models into successful e-commerce companies.
Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev
Robinhood has promoted itself as the retail stock trading app that encourages “investing for everyone,” with commission-free trades. Many r/WallStreetBets members and other retail investors used Robinhood to jump on GameStop, AMC and other stocks before they started to rise and fall in ways never before imagined.
But on Thursday, in the midst of retail trader wins on rising GameStop shares, Robinhood shut down sales of GameStop and other stocks. It’s important to note that Citadel Trading, who bailed out hedge fund Melvin Capital, is one of Robinhood’s biggest investors. On Thursday, Robinhood reportedly tapped credit lines and even allegedly borrowed millions from JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to cover trading.
On Friday, the blog “Guest of a Guest” referred to Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev as “the most hated man in America” for the restrictions he chose to impose on retail traders this week. “In order to protect the firm and protect our customers we had to limit buying in these stocks,” he told CNBC, though he insisted that “there was no liquidity problem.”
r/WallStreetBets founder Jaime Rogozinski
The community on the subreddit r/WallStreetBets are are the retail traders who started it all by buying shares of failing retail chain GameStop against short sellers. They didn’t stop with GameStop. They also purchased stocks and promoted companies like AMC Entertainment Group, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Nokia.
The group is now 4.2 million members strong (as of Thursday), nearly doubling in size since Wednesday. Wall Street Bets founder Jaime Rogozinski, who lives in Mexico, called the stock market frenzy sparked by his group “like watching a train wreck” in a CNN interview this morning, expressing regret about the current state of the group.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Billionaire owner of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk’s role in r/WallStreetBets began with a single-word tweet on Tuesday: “Gamestonk!!!” Musk has previously been vocal about his dislike of shortsellers, and made several comments to this effect on Twitter on Thursday.
Meanwhile, he also sided with representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others yesterday that an investigation should be made into Robinhood and other trading platforms that froze purchases of certain stocks this week.
Musk agreed with members of the Tesla community on Twitter who stated, “Make shorting illegal.” Ultimately, his feelings on the matter are a mystery – though his actions inspire millions to take action.
Hedge Funds Melvin Capital and Citadel
Hedge fund Melvin Capital is amongst the most notorious for shorting GameStop, losing billions. Gabe Plotkin founded the firm in 2014, after gaining experience as a top trader at Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital hedge fund, which was shut down following insider trading allegations in 2016.
Melvin Capital announced on Tuesday that it had closed its short position on GameStop, but not before the $13 billion hedge fund lost undisclosed amounts. Markets Insider reported that GameStop short sellers (i.e., hedge funds like Melvin Capital) have lost as much as $19 billion this year. Melvin Capital received an infusion of money from other hedge funds to avoid bankruptcy.
Global multistrategy hedge fund Citadel, with $25 billion in investment capital just last week, was one of the hedge funds that helped bail out Melvin Capital. Citadel was founded by Harvard graduate Ken Griffin, who is also the firm’s CEO and Co-Chief Investment Officer (Co-CIO). Rumors circulated that Citadel owned stock trading platform Robinhood, which notoriously shut retail traders out of buying GameStop stock Thursday. In fact, the hedge fund is Robinhood’s biggest customer.
Citadel issued a statement noting, “Citadel is not involved in, or responsible for, any retail brokers’ decision to stop trading in any way…Citadel Securities has not instructed or otherwise caused any brokerage firm to stop, suspend, or limit trading or otherwise refuse to do business.”
Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary of the United States
The new treasury secretary under President Joe Biden, and the first female treasury secretary, Yellen has been “monitoring” the situation on Wall Street along with the president.
It was recently reported by Fox News that she received approximately $810,000 in speaking fees from Citadel. The company paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars on multiple days in October 2020, 2019, and in December 2019 from the firm.
Point72 Asset Management’s Steve Cohen
Steve A. Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management firm, along with hedge fund Citadel, bailed out Melvin Capital with approximately $3 billion after the firm took heavy losses from its short position in GameStop. The Securities and Exchange Commission banned Cohen from managing other people’s money in 2016, after his company pled guilty to “trafficking in nonpublic information,” Investopedia reports. In 2018, the ban expired and Cohen founded Point72.
Cohen is, additionally, the owner of the New York Mets major league baseball team, which he purchased in late 2020 from the Wilpon Family for approximately $2.4 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources. Investopedia lists his net worth at $14.6 billion.
Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy
Dave Portnoy is the founder of the Barstool Sports blog and the Barstool Fund, a charity devoted to helping small restaurants and bars suffering losses due to the pandemic. He is a noted day trader who took Robinhood and hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen to task for their actions of the week, which included restricting trading certain stocks on the Robinhood platform.
On Thursday, Portnoy recorded a video titled, “Everybody On Wall Street Who Had A Hand In Today’s Crime Needs To Go To Prison.”
He also retweeted AOC’s sentiments that Robinhood’s trading restrictions were “unacceptable,” declaring “PRISON TIME,” and tagging Robinhood’s Twitter account and that of Steve Cohen, while naming Citadel and Point72.
Cohen replied, “Happy to take this offline,” but then followed up with a more diplomatic response, saying that Portnoy had “legitimate questions” that Portnoy said he “appreciated.”
Venture Capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya
Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya purchased GameStop stock on Tuesday and sold Wednesday, more than tripling his initial $125,000 investment. He announced on CNBC’s ‘Fast Money: Halftime Report’ that he would donate the money to Portnoy’s Barstool Fund to help small businesses suffering losses during the pandemic.
The Democratic Congresswoman has been outspoken about a need for investigation, and possible regulation, of the hedge funds, short-sellers, and the stock-trading platforms that froze retail sellers’ capabilities to buy a list of stocks that include GameStop, AMC, Express, Nokia, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Her tweet criticizing Robinhood’s restrictions has generated over 150,000 retweets since Thursday, as well as agreement from infamous republican rival, Senator Ted Cruz.
AOC appeared on TheStockGuy podcast via Twitch Thursday evening, and spoke with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. According to GeekWire, she stated, “All of us got screwed in the Recession. We never saw a single person who was responsible for 16 million or so foreclosures… we didn’t see anyone go to jail for that. We didn’t see virtually anybody held accountable in any serious way. It almost felt like this week, one of the reasons for this populist rally is that it felt like the first time that anybody was holding these folks accountable.”
Billionaire Mark Cuban, with a net worth of $4.2 billion according to Forbes, is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team. He is one of several billionaires supporting the efforts of r/WallStreetBets. He told CNBC Make it that his 11-year-old son loved the subreddit and “made trades” in r/WallStreetBets favorite picks, like AMC and Blackberry, but clarified from an earlier tweet that his son “hasn’t made money yet.”
On Tuesday, Cuban tweeted that he loves what the Reddit group is doing. “There are many hedge funds that have made a lot of money over the years targeting heavily shorted stocks,” Cuban said in a CNBC Squawk Box interview. “I don’t think this is anything different. It’s just the people who are making the push aren’t who we expect them to be and so that’s why I like it.”
We can expect Cuban, Portnoy, Palihapitiya, AOC and others to push for stricter regulations on Wall Street hedge funds and, potentially, to stay on top of investigations of Robinhood and the other trading platforms that placed restrictions on retail traders.
It’s a saga that rivals Star Wars as the forces of good and evil battle it out in the market and on social media.
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