Last week, we sat down for a late lunch with CNBC’s Dennis Kneale.We met the Power Lunch host at a small cafe around the block from our offices and expected polite, bland exchanges about politics, careers, and Wall Street.
Boy were we surprised!
Dennis is a bit of a rarity among the anchors at CNBC, where a cautious, middle-of-the-road pose is the norm. Dennis is loud and unafraid to voice his views and opinions on the world.
Dennis thinks Obama is anti-business, that Congress doesn’t have a clue about financial reform, and that capitalism is being single-handedly destroyed before our very eyes.
Dennis is also well-spoken, full of humour, and dead set on getting the media to stop bashing Wall Street.
But Dennis may now be in danger of losing his opinionated platform.
In early June, CNBC plans to slice the daily two-hour format of “Power Lunch” in half, airing it just an hour a day to make room for a new half-hour show anchored by David Faber and a half-hour “Fast Money Halftime Report.”
It isn’t clear whether all four anchors of “Power Lunch” will hold on to their spots in the one-hour remake. Kneale himself admits he doesn’t know: “They haven’t told us,” he says of CNBC brass.
This just as Dennis’s contract is due to run out at CNBC. After a 25-year career at The Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine, he joined CNBC in October of 2007. Given that the average contract in television is three years, that means his contract is likely coming up for renewal this fall. So far, CNBC hasn’t told him whether it will keep him around. “All my life I’ve worked at basically three places. I’m not sure what I’ll do,” he says.
Kneale’s story of his time at CNBC is interwoven with interesting tales. He got a shot at his own show in late April of last year. CNBC asked him to solo anchor, for one week, the 8:00 PM show “CNBC Reports.” He invented his own catch-phrase – “I’m sellin’ the hope!” — and picked a nasty fight with bloggers. He also tangled with market doomsayers and recited his mantra: “We’re gonna be OK.”
But CNBC canceled the show in mid-September 2009, filling the time slot with documentary retreads on everything from “California Chronic” to “Billionaire Biographies.” Kneale still seems stung by the move. “I’m not sure they ever watched my show” before killing it, he says. “I just hope it’s not my only shot.”
And while Kneale worries about the future, he has the utmost respect for his colleagues like Larry Kudlow, Rick Santelli, and Jon Najarian. But the person at CNBC Dennis respects most is Jim Cramer. This may surprise you but Kneale offers an explanation: “Jim is an encyclopedia of stocks. The guy is a genius.” While Cramer may be wrong at times when his opinion really counts (Bear Stearns, anyone?), he’s also right a lot of the time and deserves more credit than he gets.
Besides, it’s not always about being right. Sometimes, for Kneale, it’s more about “selling the hope” as he puts it. “When Peter Schiff was saying the Dow was going to 4000, I thought ‘Are you out of your mind?'” The clash went viral on the Internet with the headlines saying things like “Schiff OWNS Dennis Kneale.”
But after the incident last summer, the Dow went upward by another 40% or so. “Someday, I’d like credit for being right on that one,” Kneale says, although he allows that he himself was way too optimistic as the Dow dove down from the 14,000 level in late ’07.
And have you ever thought that CNBC’s guests (and sometimes hosts) had their own agenda? Well guess what: you were right!
Everyone has a stock to pump or something to promote and they do it blatantly and they do it well. Look at PIMCO for instance, who in recent weeks has been appearing on CNBC non-stop. They scream and shout about the upcoming turmoil in equity markets and make it sound like the world is going to collapse. “Know why?” says Kneale. PIMCO sells a ton of bonds. And it is bonds that people buy in times where the stock market is too volatile.
So while Dennis Kneale’s future hangs in limbo, he is trying to remain optimistic. While uncertain of what lies ahead, he hopes he’ll find someone who will recognise his talents and bring him on for work.
Oh, and after hearing a rumour that Kneale lost a game of Liar’s Poker with his 9-year-old daughter, we asked him what was up with that. He laughs and tells us that indeed, he did lose. “She called my bluff. What can I say?”
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