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Thinkorswim's Tom Sosnoff dives into the the talk show pool
In 2009, when Thinkorswim Group Inc. founder Tom Sosnoff was negotiating the sale of the Chicago-based online brokerage to TD Ameritrade Inc., he insisted on keeping a domain name he had registered, Tastytrade.com, even though he wasn't sure how he would use it.
He has figured it out now. Taking a chunk of the $84 million he personally pocketed from Thinkorswim, Mr. Sosnoff launched Tastytrade Inc., a financial news network that started broadcasting a live investment talk show late last year from a former rap music studio in Chicago's River North neighborhood. Unlike other shows (think Jim Cramer's “Mad Money” on CNBC), it does this online.
Mr. Sosnoff's career began some 30 years ago with trading options, which led to starting a proprietary trading firm and segued to the founding of Thinkorswim in 1999. By the time he sold the business, it had 700 employees. The 53-year-old says Tastytrade may be his last big venture because he intends to dedicate the next 10 to 20 years to it.
Mr. Sosnoff loves work so much that he hates three-day weekends and skips that extra day off. And he has a habit of dismissing advice, especially from consultants who want to discourage him from his goals. “I'm completely crazy about being successful,” he says.
A father of two, one heading for college this fall and the other just graduated, Mr. Sosnoff takes time out mainly for good food, eating out every night among the smorgasbord of Chicago restaurants. He also holds season tickets to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks and splits them with a friend for the Cubs and White Sox.
Mainly, though, he spends his days building the Tastytrade operation and audience, hosting the live online show, “Get Tasted,” for three hours each morning. (It's repeated in webcasts throughout the day.) Guests have included Mike Ditka, comedian Tom Dreesen and Matthew Hulsizer, CEO of Chicago options traders Peak 6 Investments L.P.
Mr. Sosnoff says Tastytrade offers something unique in that it's less about stock-picking and more about derivative strategies. Only one show, “Options Action,” which he helped CNBC create, is similar to what Tastytrade offers, he adds.
After investors are lured to the free online programming, by next month they will have the chance to buy a variety of financial services and products, from newsletters to brokerage services to classes, at the site's “superstore.” Subscribers will pay $45 a year, which will allow them to make purchases at a discount from such vendors as Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab & Co.'s OptionsXpress unit in Chicago.
“Tom is a smart guy with a lot of passion” who “will make it a success,” says Jon Najarian, co-founder of Chicago-based Optionmonster Holdings Inc., who provides trading commentary on his own site. He adds, though, that traders aren't likely to turn to an entertainment-type webcast during frenetic trading hours.
Mr. Sosnoff acknowledges that he needs to reel in more than his current 20,000 viewers. But with ongoing speaking engagements on the trader conference circuit and client events for TD Ameritrade, where he works as an independent contractor, he thinks a fan base of 200,000 within a year and 1 million in three years is within reach.