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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
This is the man who put 50,000 on the net ...
Jonathan Maitland
Jonathan Maitland - boom or bust for the ex-BBC journalist
By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy

For someone who expects to lose 10,000 by the weekend, and may even see his home repossessed, Jonathan Maitland is remarkably chipper.

Less than a month ago, the former BBC Watchdog journalist who now works for Granada's Tonight with Trevor McDonald, was gliding towards his first million pounds. But almost before he has had time to sit back and count his riches, his newly accrued wealth is crumbling.

Such is the lot of the have-a-go internet share trader.

Maitland, who has given himself a year to make a million out of trading shares on the net, refuses to take his bad luck too seriously. In addition to this week's anticipated loss, he dropped another 10,000 last month.
Monoply board
Take a chance - Maitland says the money doesn't seem real

"I'm haemorrhaging money at the moment," he says, with cheerful self-deprecation.

"It's not just about making money, it's a journalistic experiment," he claims, before conceding that win, lose or draw on the stock market, he is bound to come out on top thanks to the interest his project has generated.

He has already signed a 15,000 book advance in return for chronicling his experiences; has had offers from three national newspapers to write a column; and is averaging more than 100,000 hits a day on his website.

And Maitland knows the recent rollercoaster performance of hi-tech shares and speculation that the bubble is about to burst "big time" only makes for a better story.

It's like a game of Monoploy. Hopefully I'm heading for Mayfair and not the Old Kent Road

Jonathan Maitland

He started the venture as a kind of bizarre New Year's resolution after a "depressing" Christmas.

"I was really bored at the start of the year and nothing was happening. Almost everyday the papers were going on about online trading and young people making a fortune out of the net.

"I thought it would be a really good idea to give it a try. My mate Richard, who's a bit staid and very ordinary, was making money like this, so why not me? I really wanted to find out how it works."

Maitland, 39, mortgaged his flat to the tune of 50,000 and set about investing the money on the stock market.

"I like a gamble and I don't have any dependants and I'm not married so I don't have to worry about other people."
Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox: Glamour is not necessarily good

Initially he relied on share tips in the newspapers, a tactic which he now calls "stupid".

"If you follow a tip that's in the papers, then the person who sets the prices in the City will have seen that tip before you and marked the price up accordingly.

"So when you come to buy it, it's already more expensive. The person who marked it up has made the money from you and you're left holding the baby."

Maitland sought some professional advice and realised there would be no gain without pain - which in this case meant burying himself in the Financial Times.

Do your homework

"I just stared at the FT line by line until I began to understand it. I was looking at what a company did, what were its competitors, how easy it could be emulated.
Maitland's portfolio - price bought at / price on 4 April
Just2Clicks - 260p / 244p
Oxygen - 25p / 13.5p
Pace - 1109p / 719p
Cordiant - 375p / 358p
Charlton AFC - 54p / 65.5p

"You have to be prepared to do your homework and not just rely on the papers but read lots of investment material."

But he did not shed all his amateurish foibles, and to good effect. Maitland chose to put the bulk of his capital into one company which he thought particularly impressive. The fact that the CEO had a beard sealed it for him.

Bearded chief executives are a turn off to the media he decided and this side-stepped the "Martha Lane Fox hype factor". He ploughed 30,000 into the firm and split the rest between a handful of other companies.

At first, the main player in his portfolio went "like a rocket", making him 20,000 in just one day at the beginning of March. Maitland estimated at that rate he would be a millionaire in six months, and cashed in 30,000 profit for safekeeping.

But as the month ground on, speculation mounted that the bubble would burst, investors began to get cold feet and share prices started to dip.

This week the rough patch got a whole lot rougher as uncertainty mounted following the US court judgement against Microsoft and rumours the company would be forcibly broken up.

On Tuesday New York's technology-based Nasdaq share market plummeted nearly 600 points before recovering. The shockwaves were felt across the Atlantic and reverberated to the core of Maitland's portfolio.

Feeling sick

"I felt pretty sick watching the Nine O'Clock News last night. I still feel this cannot be happening to me."

He will keep his shares for the time being but knows the boom has passed.

"It was a big party. I just caught the end of it and now the hangover is starting to settle in. The money doesn't seem real. It's like a giant Monopoly board and hopefully I'm heading for Mayfair, and not the Old Kent Road."

But the highly volatile state market is playing hell with his blood pressure he says. He checks his shares "about 20 or 30 times a day".

And amid the frenzy of buying and selling, there is some good news for Maitland. A devoted Charlton supporter, he invested 2,500 in his team. Currently they are 14 points ahead in Division One, almost certainly heading for promotion and he has made more than 500 on their shares.

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31 Mar 00 | Business
Tech stock trouble
05 Apr 00 | Business
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