Daily Speculations

The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer & Laurel Kenner

Dedicated to the scientific method, free markets, deflating ballyhoo, creating value, and laughter;  a forum for us to use our meager abilities to make the world of specinvestments a better place.



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Daily Speculations


Subject: Happy Birthday

Birthday Wishes From Readers and Speculative Friends on the Occasion of Vic's 60th

Dec. 10, 2003


Tribute to Vic from the Webmistress

The amazing thing about Vic is that he has attained extraordinary distinction in eight separate areas. He is famous among highly critical circles that rarely have any contact with one another, a testament to his breadth of achievement. As his many friends in each of these fields can testify, he  puts a unique, highly inventive stamp on all of his efforts.  


Vic began winning tournaments as a boy and went on to capture some 25 national championships, including six national titles in squash as well as the world championship and three in doubles. He also won a few national racquetball, national junior and intercollegiate titles. His anticipation, endurance and command are legendary among racquets players. "He's the only player to merit the word 'genius.'" -- Jack Barnaby, Vic's coach at Harvard, quoted in Squash by James Zug.


After undergraduate studies at Harvard, Vic earned a PhD in statistics at the University of Chicago, then the premier school for financial research in the United States, and published a few dozen groundbreaking scientific papers in respected journals; his work disproving the random walk theory is still cited, decades later.

Entrepreneur and Dealmaker

While still a student, Vic founded a successful mergers and acquisition business in a way that no one had ever thought of: he sent direct mail on what quite technologically advanced equipment -- an IBM word processor. Over the decades, he and his partners bought and sold hundreds of small businesses. 


Vic scaled even greater heights in a second career as a commodities trader. Using a proprietary system to make many millions of dollars for himself and his clients, in 1996 he was ranked best-performing hedge fund manager for all time periods. After a debacle in 1997, he went on to achieve one of the greatest comebacks ever.


Vic's first book, The Education of a Speculator, hit the New York Times business bestseller list. His second book, Practical Speculation, which I had the honor and pleasure of co-writing, further established his reputation as a raconteur and illuminator of statistical and scientific thinking.


Shortly after our meeting in 1999, Vic and I embarked on a career as chroniclers and columnists of the stock market. In the first three years of the millennium, we wrote several hundred extraordinary financial articles for Web venues such as CNBC Money, Worldly Investor and thestreet.com. The columns melded Vic's unparalleled experience and intellectual grasp of markets with my journalistic approach to writing, and we reached millions of readers. (I also credit Vic with launching my brief career as a columnist at Bloomberg News in 1999, as he encouraged the editor to take a gamble on a new kind of stock market writing.)


After working briefly as a professor of finance at the University of California at Berkeley in the '60s, Vic decided to employ his extraordinary unfolding talents as a businessman outside the university. But he continues to teach for the pleasure of it. Our columns elicited thousands of responses from traders eager to ask questions and exchange ideas, and Vic became the magnetic center of an ever-expanding universe of bright minds engaged in empirical research and philosophical inquiry.

Advocate of the Freedom Philosophy

Vic is well known in individualist circles as an articulate exponent and supporter of free markets and human liberty. He founded the New York City Junto on the model of a mutual-benefit group invented by Ben Franklin, and over 15 years has made it an important forum for distinguished speakers to engage in discussions with the audience.

After summarizing Vic's accomplishments, there is still so much more to say. For Vic is not only a formidable achiever; he is a wonderful, compassionate friend and family man. In 2002, he was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. The same day, I landed in the hospital with a serious infection. Despite his own terrible diagnosis, he visited me often. One day, he put me and the nurses into fits of laughter by wordlessly acting out the "Tales of the Old Duck Hunters" by Gordon McQuarrie. He persuaded my nurse to help him spirit me outside for fresh-air strolls down York Avenue in my pajamas. And through my long recovery and his difficult chemotherapy, he and I continued to write our book. He also took time during this hard period to attend a ceremony in Ohio inducting his college roommate, Jim Wynne, into the Inventors Hall of Fame for the invention of eye laser surgery, and then told the Jim's boss, the chairman of IBM that he would match whatever reward IBM would pay to Jim for his invention. (So far, IBM hasn't taken him up on it.)

Vic is a maven. He has introduced countless friends and colleagues to the works of Ayn Rand, Francis Galton, Albert Jay Nock, Friedrich Hayek, the 19th-century market writer William Worthington Fowler, the nautical novelist Patrick O'Brian, and many more. He comes up with new ideas daily, making it a point to keep current with the newest ideas in trading, mathematics, electronics, natural history and ecology. We get mail every day thanking him for helping make life better and work more rewarding. Vic has never been a taker. He has helped countless young, old and struggling people in the most practical ways possible. He's an optimist, a survivor, an inspiration.

Long life and happiness, Vic.



Gitanshu Buch:
One couldn't come up with a smile big enough to thank you for the generosity you have shown villagers with humble beginnings who were plucked out of nowhere and put into positions of tremendous responsibility at very young age on the word of a collaborator's 8 hour visit to a remote shack that substitutes for an office.

So I shall write you this.

In the past 2 years I've seen your generosity with Lackey, Mr Shi, Laurel, Matador's well-wishers and so many other strangers that were pre-"formative". Who knows how many people you must have helped before there was email and the internet, who say silent prayers to thank you unbeknownst to you and the world.

The world doesn't see this, but I've seen you stay up nights sweating over what to write that can add some value to your 20 million readers every Tuesday before noon. I've heard you slink away from your caretakers into the surgery recovery room's bathroom to find where any given market is. Some would call it fanaticism, I call it devotion to what you do, and draw inspiration from it.  You're often tough to understand, but it is not difficult to figure out that one is better off just following your guidance rather than challenging it, that you always mean well and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. You are a complex man with very specific emotional needs, but everything about you is a "giver". You teach patiently, you smile when someone insults you, your laugh is
gregarious, your sadness is private and never revealed. Your house has always been open to stranger and friend alike, there's always food in the fridge. People steal your trading ideas and start multibillion-dollar empires, you wince privately, smile publicly and start discovering even newer stuff.

Your humility and informal manner belies the laser sharp mind and the elephantine memory that you possess, and the tremendous wealth the son of a police officer has acquired is merely an example of what immigrants like me dream about from afar as to what is possible in America. But you have done at least twice in one lifetime what most of us would consider impossible to do just once.

Your tenacity when pushed to the edge of the envelope, creativity when confronted with certain ruin, your unfailing honesty when exposed to a move gone wrong, your embarrassing habit of being 2 steps ahead of the game with half the hours being here...

... are models to aspire to.

And we didn't even get to the part about the junto, the long - and largely silent, unrecognized history you have with pushing for free markets, the stuff you keep hidden from office out of sensitivity to others' political ideologies.  Thank you for giving me the chance to sit next to you, Vic, it is something I could never have dreamed of. It is your birthday, but it feels like I got the gift.

Everyone should be so lucky.

Thank you, Vic.




Jack Tierney, President of the Old Speculators' Association:
Passed the same mark sometime earlier this year. I thought it would be momentous, maybe earth-shattering. The only thing remarkable about it was that it was also the day for my annual physical. I didn't realize the nurse had noted it until the doctor began, and she commented on it. When he asked what gifts I was expecting to receive, I told him a free physical would be appreciated. His reply: "Perhaps we ought to check you for dementia also."



Russell D Sears:
May your experience continue to increase your statistical significance, and may your wisdom continue to increase its relevance.



Brett Steenbarger:
Do what makes your heart and mind sing. Know that you are loved. What great advice, and how true that is! It's a trite observation, but I've found it deeply true at a personal level: illness does more than most anything else to focus one on what is important in life. My conciliatory nature aside, I hope you never stop approaching life, markets, and friends with uncompromising zeal and passion. From a little guy in my home  who still talks about his tennis lessons to many young traders who I hear from in person and online, you have touched and enriched many lives--my own not least of all. That is a wealth and greatness all its own.



Fadi Shadid:
Happy birthday and thank you for your parentage to me personally. Along with my parents and grandparents, you have been abundant and taught me well. I thank and pray to our God for your health and happiness.



Ken Smith:
To Vic - My Optimist Friend on Sixty Years:

I dwell in Possibility-
A fairer House than Prose-
More numerous of Windows-
Superior - for Doors-

Of Chambers as the Cedars-
Impregnable of Eye-
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gables of the Sky-

Of Visitors - the fairest-
For Occupation - This -
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise-

-Emily Dickinson



Steve Treglia:
The canoe glided without effort and without sound; the serenity of universal calm reigned around us. We talked less and less and soon found that we only put our thoughts into whispers. Finally we fell silent, and working the oars simultaneously, both of us fell into tranquil reverie full of inexpressible charm.

We were woken from our reverie by a gun-shot that suddenly echoed through the woods. It might have been the long, fearsome war cry of civilisation on the march ......... Alexis de Tocqueville " A Fortnight in the Wilderness".

A belated happy birthday to our chair.