Jeremy was a 22-year-old college senior who took his $6,000 textbook money and turned it into $109,977.
Kim was a single mom and psychiatric nurse hoping to pay for her kid’s braces only to get caught up in a much bigger search for meaning.
Sara was a pregnant 30-year-old hair-salon worker who used her stimulus money to be part of the hype, only to lose nearly all of it.
Win or lose, all three people were among the thousands of ordinary Americans who bought into last winter’s headline-grabbing GameStop “stonk” frenzy with a higher mission in mind.
“They bought GameStop in an attempt to stick it to the man,” said Ben Mezrich, whose new book, “The Antisocial Network” (Grand Central Publishing), is out now. (Mezrich has changed some of his subjects’ names to protect their privacy.)
The hype all started with a 34-year-old broker named Keith Gill. From his basement computer in Brockton, Mass., Gill wrote regular posts on a subReddit forum called WallStreetBets, touting what he believed were undervalued stocks, using the handle “Roaring Kitty.”
In fall of 2019, Gill was all in on GameStop, buying $53,000 at around $5 a share. Through research, he had discovered that nearly every share of the stock was being sold short — meaning it had been borrowed by investors who believed the price would fall and they could later resell for a profit.
But Gill knew that if the stock price rose instead of falling, a so-called “short squeeze” would ensue, putting pressure on those who borrowed the shares to buy more to return to their lenders — thereby forcing the share price even higher.
“It would be like watching investors trying to get out of a burning building, through a single, narrow door,” Mezrich writes. “The stock would rocket.”
His posts on Reddit won converts, and by January 2021, GameStop’s share price had exploded to nearly $350 — a 6,900 percent increase.
Jeremy invested all his savings in GameStop, buying 200 shares at an average price of $15.44, then another 150 at $19.20 for a total investment of nearly $6,000.
Sara was sick of the big Wall Street players getting rich while regular people got the shaft. She bought 10 shares at $354 for an investment of $3,540.
“Maybe, finally, it would be her turn,” she thought.
Kim had lost money on stocks before. But as the GameStop hype grew, she feared missing out and cautiously invested $1,600 at $16 a share, buying 100 shares.
After that, she checked her phone constantly, watching as the stock price doubled in a day and continued to rise. She was pleased with the stock surge, but even more thrilled to earn the respect of her teen son.
“Getting cool points from a teenager was almost as good as getting accolades from Jim Cramer,” Mezrich writes.
GameStop eventually rocketed to more than $400 a share, with the Reddit mob claiming it was heading to $1,000.
Instead, on Jan. 28, trading became too frenzied. Robinhood, an investing app used by many GameStop investors, halted trading and the share price suddenly took a swift dive.
Jeremy, whose family had been begging him to sell for weeks, finally relented and sold at $314 a share, turning his investment into a six-figure windfall.
Kim still hasn’t decided whether to hold, sell or even buy more. Today, GameStop is at $178 a share, so if she sold now, she’d still make quite a bit.
“Her world might always be unfair, and her life might always be messy. But a big part of her liked messy,” the author writes.
Sara, meanwhile, had bought too high. But, even though her investment had bombed, she still took pride in being part of the movement.
“Her ten shares of GameStop were sitting at one-sixth the price she’d bought them at,” Mezrich writes. “But they were still hers.”