Kevin O'Leary, the meanest shark in the "Shark Tank," may be a Canadian citizen, but he sure has a lot to say about American economics. Born in Montreal to a salesman and a seamstress, O'Leary got the entrepreneurial spirit early. In the '90s, he started the software company SoftKeys, which he later sold for $4 billion to Mattel. These days he's a TV star, not only on "Shark Tank" in the U.S., but also on the show's Canadian sister series "Dragon's Den" and on the CBC News Network's "The Lang and O'Leary Exchange."
As the CEO of his newest business, O'Leary Funds, which he founded in 2008, he manages billions of dollars in mutual funds globally. While his life is still centered in Canada, his business experience in the U.S. and around the world has given him some pretty strong opinions about American economy and politics. At a recent set visit, O'Leary discussed who he thinks the U.S. should elect as president and how "Shark Tank" reflects the fiscal state of our country.
'Shark Tank' is an index for the U.S. economy
Now in its fourth season, "Shark Tank" is picking up steam. The sharks are the biggest show on Friday nights and even gained an Emmy nod in 2012. Like everything else, the economy is having a profound affect on the program.
O'Leary remarked, "We're an index for the economy... Banks in America are not lending to mid-size companies. [The entrepreneurs] come in here now looking for capital to expand, to finance receivables. This is tough out there. As a result, the quality of the deals this year are unbelievable."
He noted that for the first time in the show's history, solid companies who have already built up to a point of having millions in sales are coming in looking for cash to grow. He added, "For me, anything with sales is far more interesting than just a concept."
O'Leary is the shark most concerned with the bottom line. He talks numbers and nothing else. If he sees the opportunity to make money, he invests, while other sharks might be willing to take a chance because they see a spark in an entrepreneur. But O'Leary does show passion about one thing: "I love what we do here because, slowly but surely, people are starting to say 'Where do we grow in America?' It's in small business. That's where jobs come. That's where we're all working. And I think the show highlights that. The slow gradual build is happening right here."
O'Leary supports Mitt Romney
Although he's Canadian and can't cast a vote himself, he encourages Americans to vote for Mitt Romney. He stated, "My opinion is interesting because I'm agnostic. I'm not bound to either party. I'm just looking at what America was and where it needs to go."
He believes Romney has what it takes to get the U.S. back on its feet financially. He might be slightly biased, after all, he admitted to working for Romney for eight years: "He was my second largest shareholder."
He compared deciding on a president to his search for a back surgeon. O'Leary said he interviewed 17 surgeons to fix his herniated L4/L5 before settling on a physician to treat him. He noted, "The guy I'm going to use does not have the best bedside manner… But he's done 3,600 procedures successfully. Mitt Romney has no bedsides manner, but he's the best financial surgeon this country needs. This guy is a master of execution. America needs a guy like that right now."
O'Leary went on to praise President Obama noting, "He's done great work getting the American brand back globally. During the past administration, the American brand was in the toilet and now it's way back because people love what Obama's done. But he has not delivered for America."
O'Leary claims the POTUS is not a good enough businessman to lead the country to economic recovery, and Romney is the guy for the job. "We need to fix it because this used to be the bastion of capitalism and now that's moving to China."
Watch "Shark Tank" on Fridays at 8 PM on ABC.
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