Who is the Massachusetts man who kicked off the whole GameStop phenomenon?
Keith Gill is a 34-year-old former employee of MassMutual who, on the Internet chat site Reddit and through YouTube videos, has been pounding the table on behalf of the beleaguered video game retailer since 2019. In doing so, he kicked-off a stampede of fellow Reddit users and other individual investors, sending the once-beaten down shares into the stratosphere, triggering huge losses among veteran hedge fund investors who had shorted the stock, and provoking something of an existential crisis on Wall Street.
Gill could not be reached for comment, but his game plan on the stock is plain to see on Reddit, where he posts under the name DeepF***ingValue and under the moniker Roaring Kitty on YouTube.
In his first interview since the chaos began, Gill told the Wall Street Journal that he “didn’t expect this.” The trader films his popular YouTube videos from the basement of his Wilmington residence, in front of a multi-monitor set up. Gill used to work for MassMutual, and an archived website shows he worked as an investment and financial professional.
“This story is so much bigger than me,” he said.
Gill, though, has amassed a following of traders that don’t resemble the typical Wall Street mogul: many of them go by unidentifiable usernames, use rocket ship emojis, discuss the stock market by way of memes, and talk about sending stocks to the moon. And indeed it has: from less than $10 a share earlier this year, GameStop’s stock price has gone ballistic, at one brief point trading above $500 on Thursday. It closed Friday at $325 a share.
Along the way, Gill and others have become very rich — on paper, at least. One of his posts from earlier this week purportedly shows that Gill’s investment of $53,000 had ballooned to $48 million, according to published reports.
But what started out as a typical argument for a beaten-down stock has morphed into something much larger. Using the Robinhood trading app, where individual investors can buy stocks in small lots, and low-priced options that add to the buying, the Reddit crowd took particular aim at the hedge funds and other professional investment firms that have large short positions in the stock, meaning they bet the shares would decline.
Instead, the sharp rise in GameStop’s share price created huge paper losses for those short-sellers, forcing at least one to close out its position to minimize further losses.
Robinhood said it was forced to stop trading in GameStop and several other stocks briefly on Thursday, as did some other trading platforms, triggering a backlash from Reddit investors who see themselves as David to the Wall Street Goliaths shorting the stock. Another Massachusetts resident, Brendon Nelson, filed a lawsuit Thursday against Robinhood, arguing it wasn’t ethical for the platform to bar trading.
GameStop’s stock surge also prompted public officials to warn of market manipulation . Senator Elizabeth Warren has voiced her concern, asking the US Securities and Exchange Commission Friday to explain what it is doing to address the recent market activity. The agency later said it was investigating.