O'Leary in March 2011
9 July 1954 |
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Alma mater||University of Waterloo
University of Western Ontario
|Occupation||Founder of SoftKey
Co-investor and Director of Storage Now
Co-founder and Chairman of O'Leary Funds
Co-investor and Venture capitalist in Dragons' Den and Shark Tank
Co-host of The Lang and O'Leary Exchange
Author of the Cold Hard Truth
|Net worth||US$400 million|
|Children||Trevor & Savannah O'Leary|
Kevin O'Leary (born 9 July 1954) is a Canadian entrepreneur, investor, journalist, writer, financial commentator and television personality. He is most famous for being a "Shark" investor on the ABC reality television series Shark Tank as well as a "Dragon" on CBC's Dragons' Den.
Early life and education
O'Leary was born in Montreal, Canada to an Irish Canadian salesman father and Lebanese Canadian seamstress mother. O'Leary's parents divorced when he was a child and his father died shortly thereafter. His mother, Georgette, later remarried. While growing up he lived in several countries, moving around every couple of years. He attended Stanstead College and St. George's School.
At Nepean High School in Ottawa, O'Leary was a member of the photo club and worked odd jobs after school to supplement his income, one of which involved washing trucks. After graduating, he studied for two years at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean followed by two years at the University of Waterloo, where he received an honors bachelor's degree in environmental studies and anthropology. In 1980, he earned an MBA from the Ivey Business School at The University of Western Ontario.
Immediately after college, O'Leary and two friends launched Special Event Television (SET), a television production company that met limited success producing minor television shows and in-between-periods commercials for local professional hockey games. His ownership was later bought out for $25,000 by one of his partners.
O'Leary then moved on to his second business venture, a software company in the basement of a small Toronto home along with partners John Freeman and Gary Babcock. His mother provided the seed investment capital of $10,000, which he used to start software publisher SoftKey. Softkey products typically consisted of software intended for home audiences, especially compilation discs containing various freeware or shareware game software packaged in a "jewel-case" CD-ROM. By 1994, Softkey had become a major consolidator in the educational software market, acquiring no fewer than 60 rivals, such as WordStar and Spinnaker Software.
In 1995, Softkey acquired The Learning Company (TLC) for $606 million, moved its headquarters to Boston, and took The Learning Company as its name. TLC bought its former rival Brøderbund in June 1998 for $416 million. In 1999, TLC and its 467 software titles were acquired by Mattel in a $3.8 billion stock swap. Sales and earnings for Mattel soon dropped, and O'Leary departed from Mattel. The purchase by Mattel was later called one of the most disastrous acquisitions in history.
In 2003, O'Leary became a co-investor and director in Storage Now, a developer of climate-controlled storage facilities. Through a series of development projects and acquisitions, Storage Now became Canada’s third-largest owner/operator of storage services, with facilities in 11 cities serving such companies as Merck and Pfizer when it was acquired by the In Storage REIT in March 2007 for $110 million.
In March 2007, O'Leary joined the advisory board of Genstar Capital, a private equity firm that focuses on investments in selected segments of life science and healthcare services, industrial technology, business services and software. Genstar Capital appointed O'Leary to its Strategic Advisory Board to seek new investment opportunities for its $1.2 billion fund. O’Leary also serves on the executive board of the Richard Ivey School of Business at The University of Western Ontario. He is a member of the investment committee of Boston’s 107-year-old Hamilton Trust and an investor of EnGlobe, a TSX listed company. He is a former co-host of SqueezePlay on Business News Network, Canada’s national business television specialty channel. O’Leary is currently working as the entrepreneur, investor, and co-host for the Discovery Channel’s Discovery Project Earth, a project that explores innovative ways man could reverse climate change.
In September 2011, O'Leary released his book, Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money & Life, wherein he shares his secrets, experiences, insights, and lessons on entrepreneurship, business, finance, money and life as well as advice for budding entrepreneurs. A sequel to his first book called The Cold Hard Truth On Men, Women, and Money: 50 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them was followed up in 2012, which focused a greater emphasis toward personal financial money management techniques, common money mistakes, tricks and tips to earn more financial freedom each targeted toward a specific stage in a person's life.
O'Leary served as foil to journalist Amanda Lang on The Lang and O'Leary Exchange on CBC News Network, and he also appeared as a venture capitalist on the Canadian television show Dragons' Den until departing CBC in late 2014. Since 2009 he has been a shark on the American version of Dragons' Den, Shark Tank, which airs on ABC. He is referred to as "Mr. Wonderful" and "The Undertaker" by Mark Cuban on that show. He has also hosted his own CBC television show, Redemption Inc.
During a segment on the Occupy Wall Street protests on 6 October 2011 episode of the CBC News Network's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, O'Leary criticized Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges for sounding "like a left-wing nutbar." Hedges stated afterwards that "it will be the last time [he appears on the show]" and compared the CBC to Fox News. CBC's ombudsman found O'Leary's behaviour to be a violation of the public broadcaster's journalistic standards.
In August 2013, O'Leary interviewed Rachel Parent, a 14-year-old anti-GMO foods activist. In the interview, O'Leary expressed concern that Parent had become a "shill" for environmentalists. The video received over 3 million views on YouTube.
In January 2014, O'Leary remarked on his television show The Lang and O'Leary Exchange that the news that the world's richest 85 people owned as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population was "fantastic news."
|“||It's fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.' This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this? I celebrate capitalism. Don't tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that's never gonna happen ... it's a celebratory stat. ... If you work hard, you might be stinking rich one day.||”|
O'Leary left CBC in August 2014 after five years with the Lang and O'Leary Exchange; earlier that year it had been announced that he was leaving Dragon's Den after eight seasons. O'Leary joined CTV/Bell Media on 1 September 2014, with plans to appear on Canada AM, eTalk, The Marilyn Denis Show, The Social and BNN shows and provide financial commentary for the radio stations CFRA Ottawa, CJAD Montreal and CFRB Toronto. On May 5 2015, O'Leary made an appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy, and by Final Jeopardy, he had $-2‚500, but was given $1,000 so he could still compete for money for his charity, but bet all of the money and came in third place. He still revived $10,000 for his charity. O'Leary was the only celebrity that week to finish below $0 before Final Jeopardy.
Business ventures and investments
Having carved out a niche for the O'Leary brand in the software industry, O'Leary moved on to establish the O'Leary name and brand in a multitude of industries, companies and products. Following his successful business ventures in software, storage facilities, and private equity, O'Leary has established his name in a number of other industries, including O'Leary Funds (a mutual and investment fund management firm that handles over $1.5 billion), O'Leary Ventures (a private early-stage investment company that invests in and partners with early-stage, high-growth-potential companies in various Canadian industries), O'Leary Mortgages (a mortgage firm), O'Leary books, and O'Leary Fine Wines (a winemaking company). In April 2014, O'Leary Mortgages went out of business.
O'Leary has also ventured into gold investing, with five percent of his financial portfolio invested in gold. However, he does not invest in gold stocks issued by gold mining companies, as the concept of cash flow is very important to him when analyzing a stock. O'Leary also advises diversification where no more than 20% of one's financial portfolio should be focused on one sector.
O'Leary has been married to his wife Linda since 1990. They have two children, Trevor and Savannah O'Leary. O'Leary's son Trevor is a music producer and DJ. His wife Linda O'Leary serves as the VP of Marketing for O'Leary Wines.
He currently has a cottage on Lake Joseph in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada where he visits during summer weekends with his family. His personal interests beyond his career include winemaking, playing guitar, squash, visual art, music and photography. He is an avid guitar player, remains a fan a of Les Paul guitars, and personally owns a large collection, including a signed one by Gibson Les Paul. He also has a rare pen collection, a collection of 129,000 songs both digitally and from vinyl, as well as a cellar of wine from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Having a lifelong interest in photography, O'Leary is also a part-time photographer. He holds a large collection of vintage cameras, in which one of his most prized ones is a Leica M3. O'Leary has amassed hundreds of thousands of photographs, including over 300,000 negatives throughout his lifetime. He held his first photo exhibition in 2013, "Kevin O’Leary: 40 Years of Photography" at First Canadian Place in Toronto. Many of these photos were amassed from all over the world - places ranging from Ukraine, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. The photos feature some of his best travel work, landscapes, and even a self-portrait from the 1970s. O’Leary also announced that the proceeds generated from the exhibit will go toward his Future Dragon Fund Contest. This contest has a goal of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in our future generations, targeted towards ambitious teenage entrepreneurs in their junior and senior year.
- Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money & Life. Doubleday Canada. 2011. ISBN 978-0385671743
- Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women & Money. Doubleday Canada. 2012. ISBN 978-0-385-67850-6
- Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money. Doubleday Canada. 2013. ISBN 978-0385682404
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- Video on YouTube
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