Nowadays, the main reason most people know Mark Cuban is because of Shark Tank and the Mavericks. He’s famous for making offers with short lifespans and pouncing on entrepreneurs whenever he feels that something is off.
His bombastic personality and bloated ego are also hard to miss. Despite these quirks though, Mark is by far the most reliable Shark on the show following through with 87.5% of the deals that he makes on air. That’s nearly double all the other sharks, but when you consider that he’s worth 5 times more than the rest of the regular sharks combined at $5.93 billion, it’s not surprising that he’s able to be much more lenient with his deals.
While Mark often talks about how he had to hustle to make it to the top, it’s never made clear how exactly he made his money. So here’s how Mark Cuban became the only regular billionaire on Shark Tank.
Taking a look back, Mark was born on July 31, 1958 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a Jewish immigrant family. His father’s side were immigrants from Russia and his paternal grandfather had changed the family name from Chabenisky to Cuban when he arrived at Ellis Island. Meanwhile, his mother’s side were immigrants from Romania. In the US, Mark’s father was making a living as an automobile upholsterer while his mother was a homemaker.
Mark’s family wasn’t particularly wealthy, but from a very young age, Mark was always trying his best to make money in any way he could. When he was 12, for instance, he sold garbage bags door to door until he could afford some expensive basketball shoes.
Similarly, when he was 16, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went on strike, and Mark leveraged this opportunity to sell newspapers from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.
Clearly, Mark was doing pretty well for himself as a teenager, but he had no interest in just sticking around at the same level. He would grind through high school and graduate a year early which allowed him to enroll in the University of Pittsburgh. Originally, Mark chose this college because he was a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but after just one year, he decided that it was much better to choose a college based on finances. So, he would transfer over to Indiana University in Bloomington because it offered the cheapest tuition out of the top 10 business schools.
Mark never ditched his entrepreneurial side though; in college, he helped run a pub and taught disco lessons. But soon enough, his college days would come to an end in 1981 when he graduated with a bachelors in business administration specializing in management.
Following college, Mark would move back to Pennsylvania and secure a job at Mellon bank. At the time, Mellon bank was in the process of switching from paper to computers, and this really showcased to Mark the potential of computers. But, Mark didn’t stick around for long though, just one year later, Mark decided to move to Dallas, Texas and picked up jobs as a bartender and a salesman at a company called Your Business Software.
Even today, Mark says that if he had to start over from scratch, being a salesman during the day and a bartender during the night is exactly what he would do. This way, he would have a stable income from bartending and a scalable income from selling.
Unfortunately for Mark though, he would get fired from his sales job during his first year because one day, he was meeting with a client instead of opening up the store. Instead of looking for another job though, Mark decided that it was time to start his first company.
MICROSOLUTIONS ( Mark Cuban Becoming Millionaire )
Mark’s first company was a software consulting service called MicroSolutions. The business was basically a copy of Mark’s former employer Your Business Software, but Mark felt that he could do it way better than them, and that’s really all you need.
One of Mark’s core business principles is that execution is way more important than the idea. He says that everyone has a great idea, but very few people are able to execute. Mark also preaches that following your passion is one of the great lies of life. If he had followed his passion, he says that he would’ve ended up as a failed basketball or baseball player. Instead, Mark has always insisted on following opportunity, and the opportunity with MicroSolutions was that Mark had already built up a client base at his old job.
So, he just had to convince them to switchover, and being the hustler that he is, this wasn’t too difficult. Aside from building up a solid client base including people like Ross Perot, Mark was quick to adopt new technologies such as remote screen sharing, client-server software platforms, and of course the internet.
By 1990, MicroSolutions had grown to $30 million in revenue and this stellar performance started to attract some acquisition offers. And that same year, Mark would sell MicroSolutions to CompuServe for $6 million which worked out to about $2 million after taxes for Mark.
Adjusting for inflation, we’re talking about around $4.2 million which is nowhere close to being a billionaire, but Mark was more than happy with this amount. You see, Mark was never trying to become a billionaire, he just wanted to be financially free and enjoy life. And $4.2 million was more than enough to do just that.
One of Mark’s first orders of business after cashing out was spending $600,000 on an American Airlines unlimited pass. As the name suggests, this allowed Mark to travel on American Airlines first class unlimited times. Mark says that over the next 5 years, he used the pass to travel the world and party like a madman.
Apparently, the long-term cost of the ticket came out to just 12 cents per mile. To put that in perspective, the average airfare costs roughly 11.5 cents per mile, so about the same amount, but Mark was flying in first class. This was clearly a terrible business decision by American Airlines and that’s probably why they discontinued the pass, but the pass is still valid for people who already bought it. And today, Mark is 1 of 25 people who still have the pass.
Mark clearly had a blast globe trotting through the early 1990s, but it didn’t take him long to jump into yet another business.
BROADCAST.COM ( Mark Cuban Becoming Billionaire )
Mark didn’t found this next company; in fact, he wasn’t even looking to get involved in another business. But when the opportunity popped up, he couldn’t refuse.
One of his friends from college, Todd Wagner, introduced Mark to a man named Cameron Jaeb. Cameron had started a company called Cameron Audio Networks in 1989 specialized in streaming out of town sports games.
Originally, Cameron was attempting to sell handheld satellite devices to broadcast the sports games, but in the early 1990s, he switched over to streaming over the internet. Being a massive basketball fan, Mark was super interested in the idea and he would agree to invest $10,000 in return for 2% of the company which valued the business at $500,000.
This was actually a rather high valuation for the business given that they hadn’t even launched yet. Cameron was still working on negotiating streaming rights with broadcasters, but despite the early nature of the business, Mark became increasingly interested with time, and he would actually offer to take over the company.
Cameron agreed presumably because he didn’t expect the company to grow that fast or that big, but this would turn out to be a massive mistake for Cameron. Mark rebranded the company as AudioNet and launched the service in September of 1995. He would eventually change the name again to Broadcast.com in 1998.
In the meantime, the business was growing pretty nicely as they were able to accumulate 570,000 users within the first few years. Ideally, this business should’ve been worth a couple million dollars, maybe ten million at max, but this was during the height of the dotcom bubble.
When Mark took the company public in 1998, the stock soared 250% on the first day of trading which valued the company at $1 billion. Having a 30% stake in the company, Mark’s net worth jumped to $300 million. Later on in 1999, Mark would diversify the company into video streaming as well helping Victoria’s Secret live stream a fashion show.
That same year, Yahoo would offer to purchase the company for $5.7 billion, and to Mark, taking the deal was a no brainer as it would net him roughly $1 billion. Today, this acquisition is regarded as one of the worst acquisitions of all time as Yahoo would end up shutting down the service in 2002. Honestly though, I think the failure of the business was mostly Yahoo’s fault.
I mean just take a look at how big streaming is today. We have YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and so much more. Netflix itself is worth $250 billion today, so I think Yahoo threw away a massive opportunity with Broadcast.com.
The same could be said about Mark as well. Instead of selling the company, he could’ve tried to navigate the company through the dotcom crash, and if he was successful in growing it into something like YouTube, he’d be worth tens of billions today. But, Mark preferred to just take the $1 billion upfront, and you can’t really blame him for that.
Anyway, after the acquisition, Mark dumped all of his Yahoo stock within a year which was really smart given what was coming. And with that Mark was officially a billionaire not only on paper but in cash.
GETTING LUCKY: ( Mark Cuban Becoming Multi-Billionaire )
Mark is actually super transparent about getting extremely lucky with Broadcast.com. First of all, he was super lucky to get introduced to Cameron, then he was super lucky that Cameron agreed to let Mark takeover the company, and finally, he got super lucky that Yahoo offered to purchase the money losing company for billions.
Mark says that if he started over, getting to millions and tens of millions would be no problem, but in terms of reaching a billion, he’d have to get lucky again. Anyway, after the sale, Mark began to splurge his newfound wealth.
In October of 1999, he purchased a Gulfstream jet for $40 million over the internet which won him a world record for making the largest single e-commerce transaction. Shortly after, Mark bought the Dallas Mavericks for $285 million in January of 2000.
Mark wasn’t really trying to make an investment with the team. He really just loved basketball and wanted to help grow a team to the top, but this has ironically turned into a fantastic investment thanks to the team’s stellar performance.
Before Mark bought the Mavericks, they only won 40% of their games, but in the ten years following his purchase, the Mavericks won 69% of their games and they even won the NBA finals in 2011.
Today, the Mavericks are valued at $2.7 billion which is nearly a 10x on Mark’s investment. Mark has also been trying to get into the show business for quite some time, and though Shark Tank is extremely successful today, the same cannot be said about Mark’s initial endeavors.
One of Mark’s first attempts at starting a TV show was in 2004 when he produced a show called The Benefactor. The show was kind of like the Apprentice. 16 contestants would compete in various challenges to try to win $1 million, and Mark would judge their performance throughout the show. But unfortunately, ratings were so bad that the series was canceled before the first season was fully aired.
Around the same time, Mark also bought Magnolia Pictures and Landmark cinema, and though these have been good investments, they’re nothing spectacular. Something spectacular was just around the corner though.
Mark first appeared as a guest shark in 2011, and it didn’t take long for him to become a regular shark. Ratings for the show have ballooned ever since he joined the team, and he’s one of the most sought after sharks by entrepreneurs.
Within the first 10 seasons of Shark Tank, Mark made over 100 deals on air, and given that he has the highest closing rate, we can assume that most of these went through. In terms of money invested, as of 2015, Mark had invested a total of $19.85 million on air, and this figure is probably closer to $40 million today which is the highest on the show. In terms of percent of net worth invested though, Mark is the lowest as he hasn’t even invested 1% of his net worth because he’s just too big of a baller.
Anyway, Mark has a reputation for making short life span offers and he loves to hate on supplement companies, but at the end of the day, Mark always has the entrepreneurs’ backs.
Originally, Shark Tank entrepreneurs were forced to either give the production company 2 percent of their profits or 5% equity in the company if they wanted to appear on the show.
Honestly, this is a pretty fair deal given that sales usually explode after a Shark Tank airing, but Mark felt that the production company was already making more than enough money and that they didn’t need to eat into entrepreneurs’ businesses.
So, he threatened to leave the show if the company didn’t drop the Shark Tank tax, and given how important Mark is to the show, the company agreed.
And that’s how Mark Cuban went from a teenage boy selling garbage bags to being everyone’s favorite billionaire on Shark Tank.