Billionaire Investor Mark Cuban

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Mark Cuban was born and grew up in suburban Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1958 (“Mark Cuban”). He came from middle-class beginnings, his dad worked at a car upholstery shop and his grandfather, from Russia, sold products from the back of his truck. Cuban probably got the sales gene from his grandpa, who demonstrated the art of the deal and how it could be transformative. So he started selling early on, at twelve years old hawking a collection of garbage bags, so that he could buy some shoes he loved. Later, while in high school, Cuban sold stamps and coins to whoever would listen. Not one to rest on his laurels, Cuban took psychology classes in high school, then skipped his last year and entered college early. Mark started at the University of Pittsburg, but soon transferred to the University of Indiana. He said that he choose Indiana because it offered the least expensive tuition of the top ten colleges in the nation (Jacobs). He attended Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and indicated that he could barely afford that much. Cuban’s creativity played a factor in accumulating money for his tuition, he is said to have started a chain letter (aren’t chain letters illegal?) and offering disco lessons to sorority members (um, can he dance?) in order to pay the bills. As an outgrowth of his lessons, he went on to host disco events at Bloomington National Guard Armory. He even opened up a campus bar with some of his friends called Motley’s Pub (Jacobs).

Cuban Enters the Business World

In 1981, Cuban moved back to his hometown and started working for Mellon Bank at the point of their fledgling dip into computers (“Mark Cuban”). He invested in studying networking and computer hardware. But the ever-evolving, soon to be entrepreneur decided that it was time to move to Dallas. His next foray in the business world was selling computer software. After a short stint, he established a consulting company called MicroSolutions. It did not take long for Cuban to become a guru in the field on computers and networking, and he build a thriving, profitable company. In fact, the company was so profitable, he sold the business to CompuServe for $6 million. The convergence of computers, the Internet and business, led Cuban to create AudioNet, with his business partner and fellow Hoosier, Todd Wagner, in 1995. The objective of creating the company was developing the ability to listen to Indiana basketball games from the computer (“Mark Cuban”). Cuban faced a lot of naysayers, but the business turned into a huge success (Emerson). The name AudioNet was later changed to Broadcast.com prior to going public, where shares reached $200 each. Broadcast.com was a pioneering company in the then nascent field of universal audio content streaming over the Internet. In fact, since it preceded high speed Internet offerings, the reception was a bit slow and hokey, compared to what we are used to now. Yet Cuban was a technology visionary and a strategic salesman, and was able to spin straw into gold. The company was sold to Yahoo! just a year later, for close to $6 billion. Part of the structure of the deal was the acquisition of $130 per share in Yahoo! stock. This purchase was during the dot com bubble where companies, including Yahoo! were overvalued, leading ultimately to the dot com bust (Emerson). 

In fact, it is said that when Yahoo! bought Broadcast.com, the audio content company had registered $100 million in revenue the year before (Emerson). Thus, company valuation landed at 57 times revenue. The company had not yet reached profitability, and before the IPO, the company had lost millions. Pre-IPO, Cuban floated the company on a $1 million infusion, and a temporary $26 million placement that capitalized the company.

Saving Private Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks were a laughing stock in the basketball world in 2000 (Price). But all that was going to change, because there was a new sheriff in town. On January 4, 2000, Mark Cuban rode into town and bought the professional NBA team, a member of the league's Western Conference Southwest Division, from owner H. Ross Perot, Jr. for $285 million. The team, especially the management thought that they had come to the end of the road, but to their surprise, Cuban decided to keep everyone in place and learn from their expertise. Cuban met with staff on the first business day, wearing his characteristic t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, and rolled up the sleeves that were not there. Everyone started feeling a lot better (Price). Cuban not only retained general manager Donnie Nelson, believing him to be a great innovator, but gave them a powerful vote of confidence. Next step in his plan, he started offering the players boat loads of cash. Then he worked his media magic, all his formerly developing sales skills were brought to bear. Meanwhile he made sure to give his players fabulous perks they had never experienced before. The team got their own new plane, and in 2001 started playing in the American Airlines Center, a $420 million stadium they shared with the Dallas Stars hockey team, 50% owned by Mark. Cuban left no stone unturned, he made sure the team stayed in the finest hotels, and ate great food after both games and practices, something they had not experienced before. Essentially, he became the architect of the new class of Dallas basketball and brought excitement back in the team, the fans and the city (Price). Cuban even sent a limo to pick up his players one evening, when an ice storm passed through the area, to ensure that his players made it to the arena and back home safe. There were fifteen team members that were picked up that night.

Michael Finley, a former Mavs player and currently Cuban’s assistant, waxed poetic about his boss (Price). Finley stressed that the city of Dallas appreciates what Cuban did for the team, as well. The city was desperate for someone or something to root for, and Cuban delivered exactly what they were hoping for. Mark immediately signed Dennis Rodman to a contract at the beginning. The eccentric player was an illustrious seven-time rebounder, a skill Cuban felt was crucial for the Mavericks. Cuban gave Rodman a home on his property, but the nonconforming Rodman was kicked off the team by the league (Price).

Many of his players express much praise for the new basketball enterprise owner (Price). They say that he is loyal, takes good care of them, is a hands-on owner, and inspires them to do more than they thought they could, year after year. But everyone knows that Cuban speaks his mind. In fact, he was fined almost $2 million by the league for negative comments he made about game officiates, though most saw those actions as his display of passion for his players. Many of the players cannot forget what Cuban did for them in their time of need, so everyone’s goal is to give him what he wants most – championships (Price).

The Dallas Mavericks are now valued, according to the Forbes Team Valuations list, at $1.4 billion, quite a difference from the $285 million Cuban paid for it (“Dallas Mavericks”). Clearly, it was all his doing. The Mavericks had not so much as sat in the bleachers in the playoffs for a period of ten years, but Cuban has built an incredible franchise with his star player Dirk Nowitzki as the focal point. Now, the Mavericks have been a part of the playoffs in all of the previous 15 years except one. Coach Rick Carlisle, who recently signed a five year extension of his contract, is tied for second as the coach with the longest tenure in the NBA. Supported by their fans, the Mavericks have an active sellout streak that beats all other teams in U. S. sports, arriving at 620 games with playoffs at the 2014-2015 season end (“Dallas Mavericks”).

Shark Tank

Looking at his website, Mark Cuban Companies, could make a person dizzy (“Mark Cuban Companies”). Trying to count the number of companies he owns will cause you to have to take a coffee break before you have finished, excuse me if I fail to get back on track. His companies are divided into Our Companies, Shark Tank Companies, Projects/Films/Media and Advisory. Under the Our Companies banner he has eighty one businesses listed (“Mark Cuban Companies”), although he has done 85 deals on Shark Tank over 111 episodes of the show (“Mark Cuban 2”). Under the Shark Tank Companies section, he has fifty businesses listed. Finally, under the Projects/Films/Media category, he has forty four listed (“Mark Cuban Companies”). Cubans most successful Shark Tank deal is Groovebook, which is a mobile app service that lets customers purchase a high quality bound photobook of images they have captured on their smartphones (Chowdhry). The subscription fee was only $2.99. Eleven months after their appearance on January 10, 2014, the company was acquired by Shutterfly Inc. for an astounding $14.5 million.   

A Man Who Courts Controversy

Mark Cuban has no filter, let’s be grateful that he is not running as a presidential candidate in the Republican Party (“Mark Cuban”). In his characteristic way, Cuban created a buzz when he talked about Kobe Bryant’s assault case. He said that the event was "great for the NBA. It's reality television, people love train-wreck television, and you hate to admit it, but that is the truth, that's the reality today" (“Mark Cuban”). The comment was not well accepted. His next flub was for comments made about former director of officiating, Ed Rush, when he stated that he was skilled, but that he would not even hire him to oversee a Dairy Queen. This statement eventually earned him a day working at an actual Dairy Queen in nearby Coppell, Texas. The $2 million in fines, over caustic and unnecessary comments, though, have had no effect on trimming Cuban’s commentary. When talking to reporters he said that he can’t live his life worried about what people think. His mouth gets him in trouble and got him in trouble all his life (“Mark Cuban”). He said the more trouble he gets in, the more money he makes. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), accused the billionaire of insider trading, but the case was dismissed in 2009. But in 2010, the SEC reinstated the case. Coincidentally, he joined Shark Tank at this time, so his case was put on hold. When the trial began in October 2013, Cuban was cleared of all the charges the following month. His next faux pas was when he said that he would cross the street if he saw a black kid with a hoodie on, coming his way, but later expressed remorse, stating he had not given proper consideration to the Trayvon Martin family, and apologized to them stating that he isn’t perfect, but he is not a racist (“Mark Cuban”).

Billions of Dollars are Never Enough

Mark has not stopped yet and it looks as though he will not slow down any time soon. In 2003, Cuban bought Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures (“Mark Cuban”). He started HDNet in 2001, later AXS TV, but then ended it when he partnered with AEG, Ryan Seacrest Media and CAA to create a multiplatform project that captures live concerts, using the AXS TV name. Next, he producing an online/app reality TV series called, That’s a First. Cuban was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2007 at the behest of his daughter. In 2005 and 2006, he executive produced Goodnight and Good Luck and Akeelah and the Bee. The reality TV star and venture capitalist made his appearance on Entourage, The League and Sharknado 3 (“Mark Cuban”).

Raising his voice in support of Alex Rodriquez, Cuban reeled at the length of time A-Rod was suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs – 211 games. This total was later shortened to 162. One thing that we know for sure, Cuban will not be stopping anytime soon, building businesses or making controversial comments!

Works Cited

"Dallas Mavericks." Forbes. Forbes, Inc. n. d. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/teams/dallas-mavericks/>.

Emerson, John. "Mark Cuban and Broadcast.com: The Multibillion Dollar Coup." GuruFocus. GuruFocus.com, LLC. 6 July 2011 Web. 11 August 2016. <http://www.gurufocus.com/news/138012/mark-cuban-and-broadcastcom-the-multibillion-dollar-coup>.

Jacobs, Peter. "Here's the one thing Mark Cuban looked for when he was choosing a college." The Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. 2 April 2016. Web. 11 August 2016. <http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-cuban-indiana-university-cheapest-business-school-2015-4>.

"Mark Cuban." Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://www.biography.com/people/mark-cuban-562656#business-ventures>.

"Mark Cuban 2." Sharkalytics. n. d. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://www.sharkalytics.com/investor/mcuban>.

"Mark Cuban Companies." Mark Cuban Companies. n. d. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://markcubancompanies.com/>.

Price, Dwain. "Fifteen years ago, Mark Cuban came to Mavericks’ rescue." Star Telegram. 3 January 2015. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/nba/dallas-mavericks/article5390883.html>.