Men have long blasted themselves into space and pondered: How big is the universe? Where is God? And even, What would it be like to have sex up here?
Not Anton Kreil.
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Mr. Kreil, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE:GS) trader who lives in London, will be thinking about his portfolio. He plans to make mankind's very first financial trade from space aboard the shuttle of a Dutch space tourism company in 2014.
"I didn't want to go up and do something cliche," he explained in a telephone interview.
"There are a hundred guys going...one by one," he said. "There's quite a lot of celebrities and big egos. I can imagine 95% of the guys are just going to go, 'Oh, wow, look at the Earth.' I want to do something special, make my mark in history."
Mr. Kreil said he paid Amsterdam-based Space Expedition Corp. $100,000 for his ticket last August. The company, founded in 2008 by two Royal Netherlands Air Force Pilots, competes with budding enterprises by Virgin's Richard Branson and PayPal's Elon Musk.
Some analysts forecast the business of blasting rich guys into space will become a $1 billion industry over the next decade, but so far, it's mostly been one big promise after the next.
Virgin Galactic, for instance, announced in 2004 that its first flights would come in 2007. Now it's, oh, maybe next year. Meantime, Virgin Galactic has sold 529 tickets for about $200,000 a pop. That's more than the total number of humans ever launched into space, unless you take into consideration all of the alleged alien abductions that may have occurred since ancient times.
Aliens apparently believe in economic equality, mostly offering spaceship rides to working- and middle-class folks in exchange for biological samples. The rich and successful have to find their own way and pay cash.
Mr. Kreil says his ticket includes six training sessions, mostly to learn to manage the g-force he'll have to endure during a four-minute explosion into space from either the California desert or the Caribbean island of Curacao. His mission will last up to an hour and a half, enough time to trade and maybe even help toss a micro/nano satellite out the back hatch before coming back down.
"I'll probably come back and take things a lot less for granted," he said. "I think I'll become a bit more humble."
At 33, Mr. Kreil has done more in his lifetime than most people could accomplish in ten. He grew up in a low-income family in the famously working-class town of Liverpool, England. "I wanted to leave, go out in the big world and just literally attack life," he said.
He began by opening his first brokerage account at the age of 16. "I saw all these idiots on TV seeming to make a lot of cash, and I thought, 'I can do that,'" he said.
Mr. Kreil's career has included stints at Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM). He said he left investment banks in 2007, fearing the end of the business cycle. He then traveled the world and appeared in the BBC reality TV series, "Million Dollar Traders," which aired in 2009 and made him a bit of an international TV star.
He seems to be living the life many traders dream of yet all too often remain stuck at their desks.
Today, Mr. Kreil is CEO of the Institute of Trading and Portfolio Management in London, where he coaches people on how to trade. His ticket to ride on a spaceship is a nice bit of publicity for his business. But what happens many years from now if the 1% start moving the world's capital and resources around from the safe distance of a death star? Mr. Kreil actually seems like a nice guy, but he risks going down in history as Darth Vader.
In space, Mr. Kreil said he plans at least one currency trade and one stock trade. One thing Mr. Kreil says he won't trade from the heavens is the euro. He jokes it may not even be around by the time he busts out of the atmosphere.
"I'm not a big fan of what's going on in Europe," he said. "The guys are running around in circles, all backstopping each other and causing more trouble for the future."
He puts the odds of a recession for the Western world at 75%. Europe's already in one, and the U.S., with it's do-nothing Congress, is likely headed for another, he said.
In the end, Mr. Kreil doesn't know if he can make enough from his space trades to cover his ticket price. He might not even be able to get out of a bad trade until he lands back on Earth. But he hopes to cover his costs in speakers' fees--perhaps charging $10,000 a pop to talk about the first trades that came from outer space.
"I'll probably dine off it for the rest of my life," the consummate trader said. "There's no downside for me."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at email@example.com or tellittoal.com)