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Futures Trading Legend Richard Dennis Calls It Quits

August 29, 1988 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Multimillionaire Richard J. Dennis, known as the ″Prince of the Pit″ before last October’s stock market crash sent his commodities trading business into a nosedive, said Monday he was quitting to concentrate on politics.

Dennis, 39, said the fortune - reportedly around $200 million - that he had amassed in 18 years of trading would serve as a launch pad for his full-time involvement in ″public policy and political endeavors.″

″There is only so much satisfaction and utility to the making of money,″ Dennis said in a statement. ″I am fortunate to have enough assets and opportunities to try to make a significant impact on our political lives. As I approach 40 years of age, I believe it is time for me to take on this new set of challenges.″

Dennis said he would not run for office but would busy himself with writing and speaking about public policy, and ″active involvement with voters and candidates.″

No stranger to politics, Dennis was national co-chairman for the unsuccessful Democratic presidential campaign of former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt. He also has made sizeable contributions to various other Democratic campaigns since 1980, including the 1984 presidential bid of former Vice President Walter Mondale and the 1986 Illinois gubernatorial campaign of Adlai Stevenson.

Dennis donated $10 million to establish the Roosevelt Center, a liberal think-tank with offices in Washington and Chicago. He also is among the leading financial backers of ″People for the American Way,″ a liberal group that was started as a counterpoint to the conservative Moral Majority.

A native of Chicago’s South Side, Dennis began his career in the financial world at 17 as a $1.60-an-hour brokerage house runner. After graduating from DePaul University with a degree in philosophy, he bought his first exchange seat - on the tiny MidAmerica Commodity Exchange - at age 21.

Dennis now owns seats on every major commodity exchange and runs two companies: C&D Commodities, a futures trading partnership of which he is managing partner, and Richard J. Dennis & Co., a commodities trading advising firm for managed futures accounts.

His uncanny success as a trader earned him the nickname ″Prince of the Pit″ on the floors of the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

But his fortune seemed to turn following last October’s financial-markets collapse, in which C&D Commodities reportedly lost $10 million.

Two public commodity funds Dennis launched last year in conjunction with Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. also fell on hard times after the crash. After they lost more than 50 percent of their $115 million combined initial value, Dennis suspended trading last April on the Richard J. Dennis Preferred Futures Funds I and II.

Both funds resumed trading on Aug. 3, following a vote of confidence by investors, and each had lost about 3.5 percent when trading was halted for good on Friday, said Mark Walsh, a Dennis & Co. spokeman.

Walsh said Dennis’ decision to quit trading was not related to the losses of the two funds. Walsh blamed the losses on ″choppy markets - the worst markets we’ve seen in 10 years.″

Dennis’ exit from the futures business was not unexpected, according to veteran traders on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

″I personally was surprised he stayed around so long,″ said Jerry Zusel, manager of CBOT floor operations for Balfour Maclaine Corp. ″With the fact that he’s made so much money, I couldn’t understand why he’d want to keep risking capital.″

″I know that for the last several years, his main interest in life has been politics, not trading,″ said Victor Lespinasse, a trader with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.

″He is certainly one of biggest, most successful traders ever,″ Lespinasse added. ″Over the past year he supposedly had some rough times but overall he made a lot of money and was very, very successful.″