Interview: ‘Mr Wonderful’ Kevin O’Leary On Shark Tank VS Dragons Den

We recently caught up with Kevin O’Leary aka ‘Mr.Wonderful’ a businessman you either love or hate, but certainly not ignore, to chat about his tv roles. Kevin was one of 5 original host/investors on Canada’s most beloved business reality show- CBC’s Dragon’s Den. Also participating in a similar role on the U.S. counterpart Shark Tank, Kevin had a few things to say about the two shows and why television has taken such a big role in his life.

Real Style: Kevin what is the biggest difference between Canada’s Dragon’s Den and the American Shark Tank?

Kevin O’Leary: The difference is that the market in the US is 10 times larger, so some of the deals tend to be bigger. In addition to that the economy here is far more fragile than it is in Canada. In fact, Canada is doing better than the US right now. So we are seeing a lot of companies coming on Shark Tank that are looking for financing that are already established entities. For example, yesterday we saw a show and there was a million dollar deal done. That’s rare in Canada, because banks are lending to companies there so they don’t need the same kind of financing. There’s a little bit of a difference. Also, there’s more sectors represented in the US. We don’t have a bio-tech sector in Canada. There’s no medical supplies sector, but we see deals like that here on Shark Tank. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.

Real Style: Why do you do both shows?

Kevin O’Leary: I really enjoy the format. I’m an investor and I put about 5% of my portfolio into venture deals. It used to be that I had a staff and you had to go find deals. Now that I am on both shows deals come to me. It’s a huge benefit. I’ve done transactions on both shows. I think it makes it a lot easier for me to do what I like to do – invest.

Real Style: C’mon Kevin so it’s not about TV exposure and becoming a celebrity?

Kevin O’Leary: [Laughs]I enjoy working with young people, investing in their deals and being an entrepreneur. I also enjoy television. It’s a hobby for me. I am very proud of Shark Tank. It’s the number one show in North America on Friday nights. It’s number one on the network. It’s number one in its time slot. It’s just number one. I am proud to be part of it.

Real Style: Do you think that Shark Tank copied Dragon’s Den and the format there?

Kevin O’Leary: Actually the format started in Japan. So, it’s owned by Sony television. Dragon’s Den is on in 42 countries including the US, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and so on. I am proud to be a part of it, where it makes sense which for me is Canada and the US. I have homes in both countries, so I enjoy working in both places.

Real Style: You are on these two shows and two others ( Lang and O’Leary Exchange on CBC and Discovery Project Earth) How much of your time is taken up by being on television?

Kevin O’Leary: I spend about 30% of my time doing television and 70% of my time as the chairman of O’Leary Funds which is an investment vehicle. We have a billion dollars invested globally, so when I travel here to Los Angeles I am also looking for opportunities for O’Leary funds as well. It works. It’s a good synergy. I am shooting shows for Discovery Channel to air in 36 different countries. I’ve invested in those countries. I like television and investing. It has a synergy.

Real Style: How long does it take to shoot a segment of a tv show?

Kevin O’Leary: The shooting ratio is about 12 to 1. So you have to shoot 12 hours of tape to make 1 hour of TV. So it takes us about a day and half to shoot one episode. It’s a very time consuming process. We’re shooting 22 episode of Shark Tank that is going to take us about 26 days to shoot total… We do half of it in July and half of it in September. We work very hard. We get up at 4:45 in the morning and don’t get back until 8 o’clock at night. We do that 23 days in a row.

Real Style: So if  we are an investor, when is the best time to pitch you on Shark Tank: in the morning or in the middle of the day? It seems that it can’t be good to be the last person at 7 o’clock.

Kevin O’Leary: The thing is that’s not always true. The million dollar deal yesterday happened on the last presentation which was a 6 in the evening. So it lasted an hour and 20 minutes in the Shark Tanks and the guy walked out with a million dollars. It’s hard to know which it’s going to be.

Real Style: You would think that you would be completely wiped out after a full day of taping?

Kevin O’Leary: When you see a good deal, you get excited and get energy again. I really like that deal. I was involved in it. It’s a very interesting deal.

Real Style: There seems to be a fair bit of fighting on Shark Tank. On Dragon’s Den you are the mean Kevin O’Leary, but on the Shark Tank you are a lamb compared to Damon and Mark Cuban. What’s going on there?

Kevin O’Leary: You know, I just tell the truth. Those guys don’t always tell my opinion if the investment is a bad one. I don’t care. I’m not trying to make friends I am trying to make money. In investing there is no grey zone. It’s only black or white. Either you make money or you lose money. If somebody starts crying, I don’t worry about it.

Real Style: Mark Cuban seems to fight with Robert Herjavec a lot on Shark Tank. How real is that?

Kevin O’Leary: I think Cuban fights with everybody. He is a very aggressive guy. There is a lot of ego in that room. There is a lot of money. The investor panel on Shark Tank has billions of dollars.

Real Style: Which is different from Canada. We seem so much gentler in comparison.

Kevin O’Leary: Still, it’s like the real world. It’s competitive.

Real Style: Long term, do you see yourself being on both shows?

Kevin O’Leary: Yes, I enjoy doing them both. They are a lot of fun. The Canadian show is doing incredibly well. It’s the number one show that is produced in Canada. The US is doing very well also. It’s the number one show on Friday nights. While it continues to have success, why not?

There you have it, Kevin O’Leary who has also written a book called ‘Cold Hard Truth’ is focused on conquering the world through the small screen. You have to admit, not too many people would relish playing the villain, but someone has got to do it and Kevin is happy to be the man! Catch up with Kevin and his daily travails on his Twitter and his website Kevin O’

photos : via CBC

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