Susan Krakower bagged groceries in Queens, New York as a kid before moving to Los Angeles and working in TV trying to learn everything she could possibly know about creating a show.
Those efforts paid off. She created CNBC’s first smash hit, ‘Mad Money with Jim Cramer’ in the 1990s, and then created the ‘Fast Money’ franchise on CNBC.
And now Julia Roberts has basically played her in a movie.
The movie is called Money Monster. It stars George Clooney as Lee Gates — a fast-talking, Wall Street TV personality who suddenly finds himself in a hostage situation when a viewer who lost his entire savings on one stock enters his TV studio during a live broadcast and holds him at gunpoint.
Roberts plays Gates’ producer, Patty Fenn. She steadily guides him from the control room as he wears a explosive vest his attacker had on hand.
“It’s crazy to the extent that it infiltrated our culture — a show on a cable network that I created,” Krakower said when Business Insider sat down with her earlier this month.
(Note: She had yet to see the movie, and was not consulted on its direction.)
“It’s [the hostage situation] not the kind of thing that executives at networks have not thought about … because it could happen. If your defences are down for some reason it could happen.”
Gates is painted as a charlatan at first (don’t worry there’s a twist). His captor, Kyle Budwell, invested all of his money in an investment firm called Ibis, in part, because Gates hyped it hard on “Money Monster.” Turns out there was shady stuff going on at the company that Gates is forced to uncover under duress, and on live TV.
“It’s crazy, but it’s a great compliment,” Krakower said. “When I got to CNBC… I had come from LA and developing shows, and it was the first time on a network that I was able to create for a news division. And not with an anchor and prompter. I thought: ‘Let’s create something authentic, with a mission that is to make money.'”
The yelling, the rolled up sleeves, the trader speak, the props, the sounds — everything that is associated with ‘Mad Money,’ was part of Krakower’s vision for a show that made you stop and watch when you were scrolling threw the channels.
“Kudos and thank you always to Jeff Zucker,” Krakower told Business Insider. “At the time I created the show there was no leadership at CNBC.”
Zucker, at the time, was the head of the whole NBC network. After she pitched the idea he sent her an email Krakower used carry in her wallet. It said: “Congratulations to you, I believe you found CNBC’s first hit.”
Of course, the movie is darker than that and touches on the main criticism of financial TV. What is the line between education and entertainment?
On that point Krakower pulls no punches.
“But those people who lost money also made money when the market recovered,” she says, “and the whole thesis of capitalism is to have your money work for you. And my thing is everyone’s gotta be working, even your money.”
She continued:”There are many shows that get it wrong, and many shows that get it right.”
“If you look there are disclaimers on these shows. You have to do what’s right for you. Do you have $100,000 to play with or $100 to play with?”
Krakower left CNBC in 2014 and is currently keeping it real as head of the media arm of investment firm SkyBridge Capital.
There she produces Wall Street Week, which airs on Fox News.
“Working side by side with Krakower… for the last six years I would say that Susan would remain as cool and collected as Julia did under stress,” said Wall Street Week co-host and former CNBC personality Gary Kaminsky.
“But I also think she might’ve come out of the control room and knocked out the intruder with a fist too.”
Krakower says she wouldn’t have been in the control room. She used to stand behind the camera motioning at Cramer with as much animation as he motioned to the audience.
That’s more her style.