Entrepreneur Jordan Belfort was born July 9, 1962 in Queens, New York. He had a Jewish upbringing and his parents, Leah and Max, were both accountants. He went to American University and was enrolled in dental school for one day before he realized a career in dentistry wouldn’t give him great wealth. With an early aptitude for salesmanship and no short amount of ambition, he began operating a meat and seafood business in the 1980s. When the company went bust, Jordan began selling stocks in 1989.
He opened his own investment firm, Stratton Oakmont, in Long Island, New York, and began swindling millions of dollars from investors. With his partner Danny Porush, Jordan would run a “pump-and-dump” scheme. This was a process of getting clients to buy stocks, thus inflating the stock prices, and subsequently selling the company’s holdings in the stocks for large profits.
As opposed to hiring experienced stockbrokers and educated college graduates, he regularly hired impressionable youth straight out of high school. He would provide them with a script to use when cold-calling potential clients. They became known as “Strattonites” and Jordan ensured they shared the wealth the company accumulated.
As the money came pouring in – Jordan once made $20 million in three minutes – the lavish spending increased. He had high-rise apartments in Manhattan and a luxurious estate in Long Island. Drug addiction accompanied his excess lifestyle and this led to several accidents. He bought a 256-foot yacht that once belonged to Coco Chanel and sank it in the Mediterranean Sea after taking it into a storm against the wishes of the captain. He also crashed his helicopter into his backyard while under the influence. His wife Nadine tolerated his behavior, but left him after he kicked her down a flight of stairs in front of their young daughter during a heated argument. His then put his daughter in his car and drove into a garage door without putting on her seatbelt. He was subsequently persuaded to check into rehab.
His success brought a lot of attention from various organizations and in 1992, the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission claimed Stratton Oakmont had defrauded investors and manipulated the stock market. Two years later, Stratton Oakmont reached a settlement with SEC, which stipulated Jordan could no longer work in the securities industry. Stratton Oakmont was fined, and eventually came under scrutiny from The National Association of Securities Dealers. They ejected Stratton Oakmont from the association in 1996 and the company was subsequently liquidated to pay off settlements over the next year.
In 1999, Jordan pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering and his prison sentence was shortened after he turned in his colleagues. In 2003, he was sentenced to four years in prison, and personally fined $110 million. During his prison sentence, of which he would only serve 22 months, he became interested in writing. In 2008, he published his memoir The Wolf of Wall Street.