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Back to School: Jim Cramer's Mad Money Comes to Harvard

Jim Cramer, the legendary stock-picker-turned-TV celebrity, kicked off CNBC’s “Mad Money Back to School Tour” at Harvard February 1. The show taping took place at the historic Austin Hall in Harvard Law School, Cramer’s alma mater. The sold-out event drew crowds of excited undergrads, loyal Cramer fans and random investment wannabes. Conservatively curious HBSers could be spotted consistently throughout the audience taking notes and asking stock-picking questions.

Cramer seemed excited and sentimental about being back at Harvard, where he was an undergrad and subsequently attended law school. Reflecting on the old days back at school, he related a few anecdotes on how he used his college money to “game the stock market” and make even more money, an idea he implicitly recommended to the students in the audience. Throughout the show, Cramer encouraged students to take risks in their investing patterns while they are still young and have plenty of opportunities ahead of them to make up for potential losses.

Jim opened the show by pitching Bookham (BKHM), a manufacturer of fiber-optic system components. He recommended the stock as a viable option for student-investors with limited budgets (the stock was trading just under $7, promising an upside north of 30 percent). Cramer’s investment thesis on Bookham was based on the company’s recent efforts to unload its long-term and convertible debt, making its balance sheet much more attractive relative to the competition. Following the airing of the show, Bookham jumped over 15 percent, subsequently falling back to its original level below $7.

During the “Lightning Round” – the part of the show where Cramer makes stock recommendations on the spot – students lined up to pick Cramer’s brain on a range of companies, including Boeing, Under Armour, and Google. The taping took place right around Google’s notorious dive, following its lackluster earnings report. Remaining very positive on Google, Cramer related some constructive feedback about the company’s public relations and suggested that GOOG could do a better job communicating with the investment community.

Cramer hosted New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer as a special guest to the show. The two met at Harvard Law School, where, according to Cramer, Spitzer was a conservative and hard-working student who considered sharing class briefs unethical. Reflecting on their experiences at in law school and beyond, both agreed that, while Spitzer got better grades, Cramer made more money. Calling his friend “the man who cleaned up Wall Street,” Cramer thanked Spitzer for his efforts to strengthen corporate accountability in the financial community and wished him luck in his campaign for governor of New York.

The taping of “Mad Money” proved both an informative and exciting experience. Throughout the session, Cramer and staff bombarded the audience with countless bull-shaped stress balls, colored in Crimson to suit the special location. The audience was kept entertained during commercial breaks by an abrasive comedian who tried hard to make fun of Harvard. The most endearing part of the evening came off-air when Cramer assured the audience he would stay after the show as long as needed to sign his book and take pictures with fans. That, more than anything, showed his true excitement about being back at school.

February 13, 2006