"IM probably one of the most famous stockbrokers in the country today. $1
If you asked people to name five stockbrokers, I'd be one of the five."
It's none other than Jerry Rubin talking. Yes, that Jerry Rubin -- erstwhile leader of the Yippie movement, one of the Chicago Seven who disrupted the 1968 Democratic convention, who proclaimed the ultimate filial obscenity, "Kill your parents!" Jerry Rubin -- who with cohorts stormed the visitors' gallery of the New York Stock Exchange 13 years ago and threw dollar bills onto the floor to protest capitalism -- a famous stockbroker?
"Note, I didn't say one of the best stockbrokers; I said one whose name is most known," he said recently during an interview in his office at John Muir & Co. That understated publicity is typical of the new Jerry Rubin.
Last July he made sure the financial community -- no, the world at large -- didn't miss his latest incarnation. In an article on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, he declared, "Welcome, Wall Street, here I come!" The radical of the '60s had finally decided that the power of the 80s lay in the boardrooms, not the streets. "Let's make millions of dollars together . . . . Let's make capitalism work for everyone," he exhorted.
He boasted of finding employment on "staid" Wall Street within a week. He described his job as "a securities analyst investigating new companies of the future, including those producing solar and other alternative energy sources. My task will be to find, analyze and develop financing and marketing plans for those entrepreneurial nonconglomerate companies that our society desperately needs."
Nine months later Jerry Rubin sits in his windowless office at 61 Broadway that he shares with three other people. His corner desk is cluttered. About him is the constant clatter of telephones, typewriters and conversation. Jerry Rubin, who once appeared at a congressional hearing hirsute and wearing war paint, beads and a plastic gun, is casually dressed in a gray sports jacket and tie, his hair and beard neatly trimmed. He speaks softly, at times almost inaudibly.
Rubin modestly explained that he had not set out to become a famous stockbroker, nor even work on Wall Street. But then he met Ray Dirks. Dirks is an equally controversial character who exposed the Equity Funding scandal, but not before he had alerted his clients to sell the stock, an action that caused the Securities and Exchange Commission to censure him. Dirks, whose middle name could be Publicity, is the driving force at Muir, a once strait-laced institution he turned around into an aggressive company seeking capital for small, mainly unusual ventures.It specializes in taking companies in the $5 million-to-$10 million range public. Last year Muir raised $150 million for 22 companies.
Dirks, according to his employe, recognized Rubin's talents as a "super salesman, a super marketer and a fantastic communicator."
Rubin's business card reads "venture banker," but that isn't a very accurate job description. In his own words, he does "everything from putting a bulletin board up on the wall so that people can communicate with one another, to doing a videotape on the company, to doing a television show, to helping our training desk get our stocks accepted by other companies.
"Also people call me up to give me proposals of companies that might want to go public. So I'm in charge of a lot of different things that flow through this desk."
Rubin, who had no previous financial training, went back to school and passed an exam to become a registered broker. He says he can do elementary analysis of companies, but leaves the complicated stuff to his more experienced colleagues. He sees himself in the future as a lecturer on venture capital, economics, the stock market.Rubin likes to characterize himself as an "entrepreneur." In a half-hour interview he used that word a dozen times.
But no one should, or does, mistake that fact that Jerry Rubin was hired because he is a celebrity. "There are people who call me just because they know my name," he said. "A lot of people who were active in the '60s call me up and say, 'There's no one I'd rather invest with than you.'
"I've brought a huge amount of money to the firm from people like that." He declined to say how much.
Rubin admits there is a lot of curiosity and some suspicion about him on Wall Street. "Wherever our advertising manager goes, he says the main question he's asked is 'What is Jerry Rubin like? Does he have horns?' But when people find out I'm a reasonable human being, we get along very well." He has very little contact with the three-piece-suit set.
This was confirmed by an analyst who knows Rubin. "He's very soft spoken and unobtrusive in the office although he remains a lingering curiosity on Wall Street. He apparently does his thing well, but then not that many people know what he or anyone else is doing" [at Muir] because people tend to work individually there. Said a second analyst, "He's just another guy who works there."
The man who was once into radical politics, trendy narcissism and the drug culture gives the impression of being "just another guy" today. He is separated from his wife, lives in the fashionable East seventies and would like to spend weekends in the Hamptons. His salary is $36,000 a year, about the same income he earned delivering 400 to 500 lectures on college campuses during the '70s, but he has more security. At 42, he finds his job "enormously challenging and creative."
To this Jerry Rubin, the stock market is viewed as not just another phase in his life, but his career. "What I am now is a businessman who wants to make a big impact in the financial world in the '80s and '90s. We're going to do an advertising campaign to make this the most famous brokerage firm in the country.
"I want to work in the area of venture capital and investment with people, using money for interesting social ends. I think it's very important to build solar capitalism."
Rubin would like to establish a mutual fund of solar energy stocks, but concedes that day is a long way off. Meanwhile, speaking like the good company man whose image he projects, he says he will support any Muir project, even if it does clash with his philosophy.
"The '80s are a time for people with different views to get together and compromise to get things done, not to strike out at the first sign of disagreement." Would anything shake him from this middle-age complacency and push him into the streets again -- a Vietnam-style war in El Salvador, for example?
"If I felt that the United States was in a war that was against American interests, I would have no hesitation about expressing my point of view. I might still protest; I'm not saying I would, but I might if I felt it was necessary. But the form of protest would be timed and planned to be as effective as possible. We're not in a period now where we need shock and outrage.
"Then, I saw myself as an outsider. Today, I see myself as an insider. That's the difference," sais the ex-Yippie.
And how does insider Rubin foresee the world of finance? "The stock market in the '80s will be to investment what real estate was in the '70s. I think the Dow Jones [average] will go over 3,000 in the next two or three years. I think that all the money in money market mutual funds will be switched into the stock market."
As for recommendations ("I'm pretty good at seeing trends") Rubin looks to high technology, cable, computer and energy stocks. The over-the-counter market is definitely still the place to be, he advises, because the chance of maximizing your investment there is greater. "I'd rather put my money in low-priced stocks than in high-priced stocks," Rubin said.