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Chris Linen

Chris Linen

January 11, 2017

Chapter 59 in the exclusive series for Dynamic Commodities- becoming a commodities trader

Chris Linen’s arrival on the scene caused immediate changes in the department. The day he showed up the head gold trader, Charlie Bingham, quit the firm. Charlie had begun his career with Chris at Samuel Montagu and as he abruptly left all he said was that, “Things are changing and this is a bad turn of events.” Chris tried to convince Charlie to stay but was unsuccessful as Mr. Bingham had an attractive offer from a competitor.

Sid immediately tried to buddy up to Chris who was an affable guy. John, on the other hand immediately went on the defensive. Chris had a different orientation to the business. While Philipp Brother’s traders were at their desks by 7:00 AM latest, Chris would wander into the office around 9:00 AM each day. He would also go out to lunch which was unheard of and sometimes those martini lunches would last for hours. As co-managers, John and Chris would discuss strategy and positions for the department. If Chris was bullish, John was bearish and vice versa. Chris was in a difficult positions and I felt for him. However, Chris displayed incredible fortitude in the face of adversity and he responded to almost everything with a booming laugh.

Chris looked like a quintessential investment banker. His hair was slicked back with that “greasy kid’s stuff.” He wore horned rimmed glassed and suspenders or “bracers” as the British called them. He loved his Cuban cigars. After about one month with the department and the given the daily road blocks John put up for the new boss, Chris stood up at noon and put on his camel hair coat preparing to go on his daily lunch date with a customer or another dealer. On his way out the door he went over to Jimmy DiPiazza the head silver trader. He told Jimmy to buy him one million ounces of silver. Jimmy asked if he had a stop loss level for the long position. Chris said, “Nah, if it moves big I will deal with it when I return” in those days that were predated cell phones. John was appalled by what he called “a display of undisciplined and dangerous financial risk.” Sid kept his mouth shut and probably prayed for the silver market to rally to make John look bad and put the final nail in his coffin. Rally it did, by the time Chris Linen returned, silver was 50 cents higher and he told Jimmy to sell the position yielding a cool half-million in profits. It was a very profitable three martini lunch for Mr. Linen and it was the end of John Gruen’s management role in the precious metals department.

When Philipp Brothers removed a manager, they tended to give them some time to find another job. John transferred to the counter trade department where he remained for several months until he was gently asked to leave the firm. Counter trade was an esoteric business where traders would negotiate swaps of commodities traded by the firm for things like airplanes and other assets. John was not suited for that business, he was a gold trader accustomed to immediate gratification. Chris Linen took over as manager and the risk profile of the department increased dramatically. Meanwhile, I was getting ready to go on my first solo trip. Sid set me up to speak on options at a conference in Brussels and to visit some customers of the base metals traders in Stockholm. That trip would launch my career.

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Post Series: Origin Of A Commodities Trader

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