Richard Dennis was born in Chicago in 1949. He got his start in trading as a 17-year-old kid in the famous Chicago Mercantile Exchange pit. A broker hired him for $1.60/hour as a runner. His job was communicating customers’ orders to the floor traders.
This led to Dennis trading his own account on another smaller exchange, the MidAm. Since he wasn’t yet the required age of 21, his dad was the trader in an official sense. Meanwhile, Dennis was making trading decisions. During this time he was technically listed as nothing more than a runner. This is even though his father was not fond of the market due to Richard’s grandfather losing a lot of money in the great depression.
These experiences drew Dennis in so much that he eventually left behind a scholarship to grad school to trade instead. He scrounged up $1,600 from the life insurance plan his parents bought him and $100 from his brother from pizza delivery. After seat fees, Richard was left with only $400 to trade with. He turned this into $3,000 by 1970. By 1973 his stake had turned into $100,000. In 1974 he made half a million on soybeans alone, and he had become a millionaire at the age of 25.
Richard Dennis as a Mentor
After he had become a notable success at trading, Richard would host gatherings at his apartment or his trader friend Tom Willis. They would buy copious amounts of chicken and potato salad and have 50 or more new traders pack into the tiny apartment, all to learn from Richard Dennis. He was a natural at teaching. He found the idea that trading allows a person to break through stereotypical class boundaries inspiring.
Eventually, Richard was so successful at the MidAm that he decided it was almost necessary to move up to the big league. In 1975, he got an office in the Chicago Board of Trade. At the same time, he partnered with a trader named Larry Carroll to form the company C&D Commodities. Richard Dennis was the leader of the two and took a bigger share of the profits. Some people thought he was crazy to leave his spot as top dog of The Pit to trade among giants like Salomon Brothers and Pillsbury. Richard Dennis has never been one to listen to opinions that clash with his deeply held beliefs.
Dennis did succeed in the big leagues, with some bumps in the road at first. By the early 1980s, he was famous for making over $200 million through his trading. He traded technically and focussed a lot on trends and how to profit from them.
Richard Dennis is a true zero to hero story. This article will explore how Richard shared this same journey with some students he handpicked in a social experiment of sorts. He assembled a group of aspiring traders from all backgrounds that came to be known as The Turtles.