Obituary: Dan Dorfman / Financial analyst could move markets
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Dan Dorfman, a journalist whose stock reports were once so market-moving that U.S. exchanges imposed regulations to limit the resulting price swings, has died at the age of 80.
His death was announced in Sunday's New York Times. The newspaper said he died Saturday at a New York City hospital; no cause of death was given.
Mr. Dorfman began swaying share prices regularly at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote the Heard on the Street column for six years. Stints with New York and Esquire magazines, the New York Daily News, USA Today and Cable News Network followed.
His influence peaked in the 1990s, when he appeared daily on the CNBC cable network and earned at least $800,000 annually for his television and print reporting. He paved the way for TV pundits such as Jim Cramer, the former hedge-fund manager who hosts CNBC's "Mad Money" program.
"I always found him entertaining, but I always thought he was a negative force, not a positive one," Mr. Cramer wrote in 2006 for TheStreet.com. Mr. Dorfman "became so pressed for stories that I believe he had to compromise his own standards."
Money magazine, where Mr. Dorfman worked as a columnist, fired him in January 1996 as the government examined his relationship with a stock promoter. He suffered a stroke later that year and lost his position at CNBC.
Even though the network exonerated him and regulators never accused him of a securities-law violation, his career wasn't the same afterward.
He wrote for the New York Sun, a newspaper that closed in 2008, and also blogged for Huffington Post as recently as last year.
Daniel Donald Dorfman was born on Oct. 24, 1931, and grew up in New York City.
In 1949, he graduated from the New York School of Printing, a vocational high school. He worked as a printer before joining the Army. While stationed in Germany, he was a driver for the editor of a local newspaper distributed to U.S. soldiers.
"They were interviewing interesting people; I thought that was a fun thing to do," he said in a 2008 interview with a website about the history of business journalism. "So I asked the editor if I could do some reporting."
Mr. Dorfman worked at several news organizations, including the Journal, which hired Mr. Dorfman for Heard on the Street, a column designed to break news about the reasons for stock moves. He departed in 1973 after the Securities and Exchange Commission told the paper's editors that a source made special arrangements for Mr. Dorfman to buy new stock, the Journal reported.
CNBC hired him in 1990 and featured him at 12:36 p.m. New York time each weekday. His reports caused share prices to swing so often, and so much, that the Nasdaq Stock Market, the Midwest Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange all had so-called Dorfman rules for trading in the companies he cited.
Money magazine lured him from USA Today in October 1994 to write a monthly column. Frank Lalli, Money's managing editor, had been his editor at New York magazine and the Daily News.
A year later, he took a leave of absence after Businessweek magazine said the SEC was looking into his relationship with promoter Donald Kessler. Kessler, a public-relations consultant and friend, later pleaded guilty to tax evasion and securities fraud. He charged $5,000 to $10,000 in fees to set up meetings between company executives and Mr. Dorfman, prosecutors said.
After the Businessweek story was published, Mr. Lalli asked Mr. Dorfman -- who was earning $450,000 a year at Money -- to name confidential sources for his columns. He refused and was fired.
Regulators had previously investigated Mr. Dorfman's ties to Centaur Partners, an investment firm cited several times in his writing for USA Today, according to a U.S. News and World Report story in 1989. No one was charged.
Four months after his ouster from Money, he suffered the stroke, forcing him off the air at CNBC.
First Published June 18, 2012 12:00 am