Cuban on Entourage

For the past several years, Mark Cuban has been one of my role models in how I have approached the start my career. His blog posts on ‘Success and Motivation’ have been invaluable tools for me as I have waded through the seemingly non-existent job market as a recent college graduate. Acting largely on Cuban’s anecdotes and advice, I actively pursued and ultimately landed a position of high responsibility at a young, but rapidly-growing, contemporary design furniture importer and vendor.

For those that know me, furniture quite clearly lies well outside my core interests in life (generally, Wisconsin culture of Packers, Badgers, red meat, cheese, and beer). Still, this job provides the opportunity to be essential to a company’s operations and learn intimately how to contract the manufacturing of a product in China, its importation, and its sales and marketing on the internet in America. My goal in this organization has been to soak up as much knowledge about these operations as I can and wait until I spot a gap in the market to transfer my natural and acquired skillset into an entrepreneurial venture of my own. Short-term income has been very unimportant to me in pursuing this goal.

Cuban has also inspired me as a young investor, consistently writing on his blog about the differences between investing and speculation as well as advice for maximizing one’s benefit in Micro-Finance. Cuban has been a successful entrepreneur and investor in dozens of operations spanning almost as many industries. It is disingenuous on the parts of the many who ascribe these great accomplishments to luckily being in the right place at the right time; all of Cuban’s actions in the sport of business have been carefully planned, calculated, and executed through brilliant forethought and hard work.

All of this is why Cuban’s role in this past season of Entourage was so disappointing. To fully understand why this is so, it is necessary to provide the background of Cuban’s role on the show. This season, Turtle, who is the childhood best friend of prolific Hollywood actor Vincent (Vinny) Chase, discovers a unique business opportunity as a tequila distributor. Once Vince tweets about how great the tequila is, Turtle finds out that his manufacturer cannot meet the demand.  This supplier, a Mexican who seems to be an excellent tequila maker but also gives off the vibes as having a proclivity towards violence, informs Turtle that they will need a substantial amount of capital to increase the factory’s capacity in order to adequately meet demand.

Turtle, not realizing that the more preferable route of merging the supply and demand curves would probably be to recast the tequila as a luxury brand and raise prices and margins as opposed to trying to raise supply volume, sets out to raise the money himself. As often happens in Entourage, the universe conveniently aligns perfectly with Turtle’s conundrum and he runs into Mark Cuban by random happenstance. Cuban immediately expresses interest in not only funding the factory’s expansion but also buying out the entire business. Predictably, Turtle’s Mexican supplier who appears to have a proclivity towards violence is not happy with this development and makes many veiled threats towards Turtle who is, once again very conveniently, able to convince Cuban to only finance the factory expansion.

In this entire process, Cuban did approximately zero due diligence into the legitimacy of the company that he was investing millions of dollars in. In real life, Cuban and his lawyers and investment bankers would pore over financial statements and insist on learning all aspects of this business before investing such a substantial amount of money in a venture. Cuban would have wanted to find out for himself whether this spike in demand was sustainable and whether Turtle’s supplier was reliable. If Cuban had ever met Turtle’s supplier in real life, there is a 0% chance he would invest money in this operation. Instead, Cuban allowed himself to be portrayed on the show as an irresponsible, unsophisticated, and speculative angel investor and celebrity sycophant.

Obviously, Entourage is a fictional representation that has little to no bearing on reality. Dilemmas always seem to work themselves out in the end and, until the finale of this season when Vince finds himself in a world of trouble, everyone typically ends up living happily ever after. Still, though, Cuban was playing himself in the role and it was extremely disheartening that he would agree to be cast in this role as someone who speculates millions of dollars in a company with no genuine due diligence.

Many people, especially in the demographics that watch Entourage, will not recognize this dichotomy between real life and fiction. They will delusionally believe that all it takes to fund and operate a successful business is an idea, a theoretically good product, a celebrity endorsement, and expedient capital from a wealthy individual who is both willing and happy to help out. Because of Cuban’s outspoken manner, many in both the media and society have mischaracterized his business acumen and success as at best being in the right place at the right time in selling broadcast.com at the heart of the internet boom, and, at worst, undeserved. Unfortunately, Cuban’s role in Entourage only served to perpetuate these fraudulent claims.

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