There are several famous former traders who moved on to different careers, such as John Key (who served as the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia). However, this list is made up of traders famous for being traders. The lives of the world's most famous traders are colored by both triumph and tragedy, with some exploits achieving mythological status within the industry. The list begins with legendary traders of history and progresses to those of the present day.
1. Jesse Livermore: Jesse Lauriston Livermore (1877–1940) was an American trader famous for both colossal gains and losses in the market. He successfully shorted the 1929 market crash, building his fortune to $100 million. However, by 1934 he had lost his money and tragically took his own life in 1940.
2. William Delbert Gann: WD Gann (1878–1955) was a trader who used market forecasting methods based on geometry, astrology, and ancient mathematics. His mysterious technical tools include Gann angles and the Square of 9. As well as trading, Gann wrote a number of books and courses.
3. George Soros: Hungarian-born George Soros (born 1930) is the chairman of Soros Fund Management, one of the most successful firms in the history of the hedge fund industry. He earned the moniker “The Man Who Broke the Bank of England” in 1992 after his short sale of $10 billion worth of pounds, yielding a tidy $1 billion profit.
4. Jim Rogers: James Rogers, Jr. (born 1942) is the Chairman of Rogers Holdings. He co-founded the Quantum Fund along with George Soros in the early 1970s, which gained a staggering 4200% over 10 years. Rogers is renowned for his correct bullish call on commodities in the 1990's and also for his books detailing his adventurous world travels.
5. Richard Dennis: Richard J. Dennis (born 1949) made his mark in the trading world as a highly successful Chicago-based commodities trader. He reportedly acquired a $200 million fortune over ten years from his speculating. Along with partner William Eckhardt, Dennis was co-creator of the mythical Turtle Trading experiment (See: Turtle Trading: A Market Legend).
6. Paul Tudor Jones: Paul Tudor Jones II (born 1954) is the founder of Tudor Investment Corporation, one of the world's leading hedge funds. Tudor Jones gained notoriety after making around $100 million from shorting stocks during the 1987 market crash.
7. John Paulson: John Paulson (born 1955), of the hedge fund Paulson & Co., rose to the top of the financial world after making billions of dollars in 2007 by using credit default swaps to effectively sell short the US subprime mortgage lending market.
8. Steven Cohen: Steven Cohen (born 1956) founded SAC Capital Advisors, a leading hedge fund focused primarily on trading equities. In 2013, SAC was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with failing to prevent insider trading and later agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine.
9. David Tepper: David Tepper (born 1957) is the founder of the wildly successful hedge fund Appaloosa Management. Tepper, a specialist in distressed debt investing, has made several appearances on CNBC where his statements are closely watched by traders. (See: Why Hedge Funds Love Distressed Debt.)
10. Nick Leeson: Nicholas Leeson (born 1967) is the rogue trader who famously caused the collapse of Barings Bank. Leeson served four years in a Singapore jail but later bounced back to become CEO of Irish football club Galway United.
The Bottom Line
The dramatic and varied life stories of the world's most famous traders have made compelling material for books and movies. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, a fictionalized portrayal of Jesse Livermore's life, is widely viewed as a timeless classic and one of the most important books ever written about trading. Rogue Trader (1999), starring Ewan McGregor, is based on the story of Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings Bank.