You won’t see it on his CNBC reality show The Profit when it returns with new episodes Oct. 14, but Beirut-born and Miami-raised Marcus Lemonis is putting a lot of laid-off people back to work.
When he’s not busy as chairman and CEO of RV supplier Camping World and RV/outdoor member-services company Good Sam Enterprises, Lemonis invests his millions in other companies, including small businesses. Sometimes that happens on-air (and, for Lemonis, hands-on) in The Profit, in which he’s already sunk $7 million into struggling businesses, and sometimes it just happens.
On Monday, July 7, cupcake chain Crumbs abruptly closed its 48 locations and declared voluntary bankruptcy. On Friday, July 11, Lemonis, partnered with Dippin Dots owner Fischer Enterprises, announced an agreement to acquire the company (subject to bankruptcy-court approval).
Already an investor in other sweets and snack brands through The Profit, Lemonis has plans to diversify Crumbs’ offerings, re-open its profitable locations and find ways to bring these similar businesses together.
Speaking on Monday, July 14, to Breitbart News and assembled TV press at the biannual Television Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California, Lemonis–joined by Jim Ackerman, CNBC’s senior v.p. of primetime alternative programming–explained the rationale behind the deal.
“The normal answer was,” he said, “I want to put people back to work. I always want to put people back to work. What I saw was an opportunity to take four of the brands that existed from our show and integrate them….Now it’s probably the first time that reality actually is going to meet reality.”
Lemonis won’t invest in just any business.
Raised by adoptive parents, the graduate of an all-boys Catholic high school and Jesuit-run Marquette University, says, “I will never invest in non-family-friendly businesses … I invest in businesses that my mother would say, ‘That feels good to me.’
“If it doesn’t pass the smell test, or it feels edgy, no matter how much money I can make, no matter how much I love it, it’s just a good discipline for me to invest in things I can feel good about, and that the message is clear, and it’s family-oriented.”
The Profit is one example of a reality-TV trend–seen most popularly in ABC’s Emmy-nominated Shark Tank, which also airs in repeats on CNBC–in which entrepreneurs invest their time, their money or both in ailing businesses in an attempt to turn them around.
With jobs hard to come by for many folks in this economy, people from college grads to middle-aged former middle managers are becoming entrepreneurs, on the theory that if no one will give you a job, you should make one for yourself.
And if they didn’t happen to get an MBA, there’s knowledge to be gained by watching business-oriented reality-TV shows. But according to Lemonis, you should watch The Profit over Shark Tank, in which business hopefuls enter a studio setting to pitch to a panel of potential big-money investors.
Sitting down after the press conference with Breitbart News, Lemonis says, “(‘Shark’ investor) Kevin O’Leary and I have become friends, and he tells me, ‘Yeah, it’s easy. We go in; we shoot two episodes in a day.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ Because he likes my show, he said, ‘You’re a moron.’ It takes me five months to make an episode. He said, ‘There’s got to be an easier way to do it.’
“I said, ‘I think your show is bulls**t. I think your show does not give people a real look at what really happens.'”
Lemonis also has hopes for a turnaround in America’s current business climate, in which those lucky enough to have a job are often working more hours for no more money, or even less.
“It’ll go back to the way it used to be at some point,” he says. “It has to. It can’t survive like this. Everything has a life cycle to it.”