Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy had bought just one stock in his life before the quarantine hit. When the country shut down in March, canceling sports and sports betting, the founder of the brash, misogynistic media empire dusted off his old E*Trade account and started day trading.

“With the volatility, it is kind of like watching a sports game,” said Portnoy, 43, who started live streaming as “Davey Day Trader Global” to his 1.5 million Twitter followers with the caveat: “I’m not a financial advisor. Don’t trust anything I say about stocks.”

Despite the obligatory warning, Portnoy has touted stocks like InspireMD Inc. and Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., while dissing the acumen of Warren Buffett, the world’s fifth-richest person and widely regarded as one of the greatest investors ever. “I’m sure Warren Buffett is a great guy but when it comes to stocks he’s washed up,” Portnoy tweeted Tuesday. “I’m the captain now.”

Portnoy and his ilk have been part of one of the greatest rallies in history, adopting as a mantra the online slogan of “stocks only go up!” Market watchers are being forced to ask to what degree retail interest has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in many parts of the market -- and what dangers it poses for its sustainability. Thursday’s rout, the deepest in three months, offered a reminder that stocks do, in fact, fall, though equities rebounded in trading Friday.

Millennials and Gen Zs, the target audience of Barstool content, have long been under-invested in the stock market, said Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG LLC.

That’s changing. Stuck at home with plenty of free time, government stimulus checks, no sports to bet on and, for better or worse, a figure like Portnoy turning investing into entertainment, more and more young people are wading in for the first time.

‘Perfect Storm’
“It’s really been a perfect storm,” said Nate Geraci, president of investment-advisory firm the ETF Store, who views Portnoy as the millennial Jim Cramer, the CNBC personality. “Investors are seeing firsthand the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and he’s doing it with large sums of money, so I think for younger investors, that’s really enticing.”

In January, casino company Penn National Gaming announced it had bought a stake in Barstool for $163 million in cash and stock. Portnoy, who estimates his net worth at more than $100 million, said he’s put $5 million into his day-trading account so far.

“I’m a little surprised that it’s become pretty well known within the financial community,” he said. “That’s kind of our target audience regardless of what we’re covering and I think Barstool was popular in those circles to begin with.”

Portnoy, a Massachusetts native with a degree in education from the University of Michigan, founded Barstool in 2003 as a weekly newspaper about gambling with the tagline: “By the common man, for the common man.” It has since grown into a media empire synonymous with male frat culture.

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