He’s opinionated and ruthless, and he hungers for big deals. Yet he made millions helping children learn how to read. Nothing if not a polarizing force on television and at the podium, Kevin O’Leary pulls no punches when it comes to the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to markets and economic opportunities. O’Leary is co-host of The Lang & O’Leary Exchange; a panelist on the wildly popular programs Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank; and author of the bestselling book Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money, and Life. His fellow Shark Tank panelist, Barbara Corcoran, weighs-in good-naturedly on what it’s like working with the show’s “meanest” investor:
If you’re a fan of ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” you know that the relationships between the hyper-competitive investors get heated at times.
Tensions tend to peak when multiple Sharks express interest in the same entrepreneur, and end up fighting with each other to invest their own money in front of millions of people.
Kevin O’Leary, sarcastically nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful,” is often the Shark at the center of those fiery battles. He’s best known for putting pressure on entrepreneurs at key moments with intense stare-downs and questions like, “What are you going to do?” He also seems comfortable low-balling contestants on the show to see if they’ll accept.
With his brash humor and cold TV persona, it’s no surprise that when the mother-daughter duo Tracey Noonan and Danielle Desroches of Wicked Good Cupcakes struck a deal with O’Leary in season four, they were nervous about working with the notoriously mean Shark.
“When we first made the deal with Kevin, it felt like we were making a deal with the devil,” said Desroches at a recent promotional event for the show’s new book, “Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business,” in New York.
Since landing the deal, the Wicked Good Cupcakes entrepreneurs have paid O’Leary’s investment back in full, but he still gets 45 cents a cupcake from their contract, in perpetuity. Today, the mother-daughter duo describes O’Leary as “an angel in disguise.”
“He’s been a tremendous mentor,” said Desroches, adding that O’Leary is “very approachable, has a big heart, is very hands on, and loves Boston.”
But when Desroches later said that O’Leary had promised to take them out to a celebratory dinner, investor Barbara Corcoran, who was also at the book release party, laughed doubtfully. “Kevin is the cheapest bastard you’ll meet,” she said, advising Noonan and Desroches to get their dinner “before he forgets about it.”
Corcoran also added that a certain amount of the on-screen fighting among the Sharks is for show. The producers are always encouraging them to bicker more, she said, because it makes for better television. But that’s not always easy for the investors to pull off. “We spend so much time together either investing our money or pissing it away that we have to be friends,” she said.