At the ABC-Disney All-Star Party during the television press tour, Mark Cuban strolled in dressed very casually in a tee-shirt and jeans. That’s why I like this guy, he likes to be comfortable. And he’s comfortable with who he is — a billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who also brags, “I’m a lean, mean, shark machine, baby.” The Shark Tank personality joined his well-dress entrepreneurial cohorts plus a ballroom full of ABC and Disney stars at the Beverly Hilton party to celebrate the networks upcoming season.
The head of ABC in charge of programming, Paul Lee has scheduled Shark Tank week starting Sunday, Sept. 8. Cuban said, “The network is really showing us a lot of support to let us eat up that much real estate in primetime.” Taking a bite out of six nights, each night will feature a favorite episode of one of the sharks. Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavac, Daymond John, and “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary will select from the past four seasons of the reality competition series produced by Mark Burnett.
Cuban actually “jumped the Shark Tank” earlier this month when he appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Shark After Dark late night talk show as part of that network’s popular Shark Week slate. He talked about good deals and bad, but with more than 20 Shark Tank investments he’s happy to report that there’s only been one business that tanked.
About ten years ago I remember introducing myself to him when he was doing another feel-good business competition show The Benefactor. He was a great guy to talk to and always remembers our conversations together. Then and now, he’s the kind of guy that jumps at the chance to tell people how lucky he is. “My family, my job, my team, so many things. Everything reminds me how lucky I am,” he told me. When we spoke at the party he was very happy to mention that he just got back from a vacation with his family, that’s why he was so relaxed and casual.
But he was also anxious to tape a new season of Shark Tank. Cuban explained, “The reason I do the show really is because it gives me a chance to help people have their dreams come true. All the time, I hear people say that you can’t start a business in America anymore, and you can’t do this or that for various reasons. But that’s not true. And we’re here to show people that it can be done. If these people who come on Shark Tank can do it, than you can do it. It sends that message. The show inspires and encourages entrepreneurs. That’s why I love doing it.”
Cuban himself was an inspiring entrepreneur when he was just 12 years old. He loves to tell the story about how he went door to door selling garbage bags in his suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood so he could buy a new pair of sneakers. He worked at a restaurant, did bartending, and a number of other jobs to earn college money, including as a disco dance teacher. Unfortunately that didn’t help him when he was on Dancing with the Stars a few years ago. But he loved the experience.
From his humble beginnings he became a billionaire who founded HDNet. He also co-founded the Broadcast.com internet company which was sold to Yahoo, and MicroSolutions which was sold to CompuServe, plus has been an investor in several successful startup companies. And he’s respected in Hollywood for the impressive movies that have come from his Magnolia Pictures. He has the Landmark Theatre chain and the HDTV cable network, and with his platforms has been a video-on-demand pioneer. All that gives him a great reputation as an MVP media magnet nowadays.
Although busy overseeing all of his enterprises, he couldn’t resist buying the Dallas Mavericks in 2000. Cuban relishes his “notorious” reputation as the Mavs owner. He sits with the fans wearing a team jersey at the games and is never shy about showing his passion for his team, or his disagreement with the referees, as his many NBA fines will corroborate. But he’s also a dedicated philanthropist who will match the fines and make donations to worthy charities.
Under his leadership with the Mavericks, Cuban has made the game more entertaining and he can bask in the glory of his 2011 championship team. What are his plans for the upcoming NBA season? “During the season they get my full support,” he reported. But until then, he’ll be sitting courtside for Shark Tank, Season 5, premiering Sunday, Sept. 20, on ABC.