Mark Cuban I Dont Take Risks But I Sure Can Dance

Mark Cuban: I Don't Take Risks But I Sure Can Dance

7 minute read
Bill Sobel avatar

Thumbnail image for Connecting with Bill Sobel

I've considered Mark Cuban a friend since September 1997, when I flew from New York to New Orleans to attend a broadcast news industry conference. At the event — the Radio Television News Directors Association convention — I came across a exhibitor then known as AudioNet.

Founded two years earlier by Cuban and attorney Todd Wagner, it was carving out a niche as the leading aggregator and broadcaster of streaming media programming on the web. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to listen to worldwide radio stations on the Internet so I struck up a conversation.

Two guys at the booth named Mark and Todd explained the concept — and I was hooked. So I made it a point to stay in touch. But the story was far from over.

One Interesting Guy


In June 1998 I was producing all the digital media panels for the annual conference of PromaxBDA, a global community of professionals engaged in the marketing and promotion of television and video content. I immediately thought of that guy … Mark.

I called him at his office in Dallas and he answered the phone himself. I asked him if he was interested in giving a presentation on his company and he agreed immediately. When I explained we were not in a position to pay travel or honorariums, he said “No worries. Money is no object...I’m in.”

The presentation was awesome, despite some technical glitches. And a month later, in July 1998, AudioNet was renamed and went public. It set (at the time) a one-day record for initial public offerings by rising almost 250 percent from its opening price. The stock closed at $62.75 a share, up from $18 a share.

By 1999, had grown to 330 employees, with second quarter revenue of $13.5 million. It wasn't surprising that it caught the attention of Yahoo, which acquired it for $5.7 billion in stock.

The rest, as they say, is history. Move the clock ahead 16 years and Mark Cuban is, well, almost everywhere. He owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks as well as Landmark Theatres, the largest theatre chain dedicated to exhibiting and marketing independent and foreign films, and Magnolia Pictures, a film distributor.

He's the chairman and partner of AXS TV, a digital cable and satellite television station, a "shark" investor on the ABC television series Shark Tank and author of a 2011 e-book, How to Win at the Sport of Business, in which he chronicles his life experiences in business and sports.

He's also the guy behind Cyber Dust, a messaging app designed to give users its complete control over their texts. Described as “WhatsApp meets Snapchat,” texts sent via Cyber Dust automatically disappear 24 seconds after being read. The messages can't be traced and aren't stored anywhere, not even on Cyber Dust’s servers, Cuban boast, meaning they offer users a high level of privacy and security.

Interesting guy? You bet — and we're honored he took time from his hectic schedule to chat with CMSWire.

Sobel: You've always been a far back as age 12 when you sold garbage bags to purchase a pair of your favorite athletic shoes. In high school, you sold stamps and coins. In college at Indiana University, you gave dance lessons and hosted disco parties at the local armory. Can you share with us your inspiration?

Cuban: I have always been very competitive. Whether trying to make money buying and selling stamps or throwing parties, I have always wanted to compete and show I could be successful at any business I start. I'm just wired that way

Sobel: Move the clock to 1995, when you and Todd Wagner, a fellow Indiana University alumnus, started AudioNet. It combined yourmutual interest in Indiana Hoosier college basketball and webcasting, particularly your interest in picking up Indiana Hoosier basketball games from your home in Dallas. Can you talk with us your journey leading up to thelaunch of AudioNet and some of the challenges?

Learning Opportunities

Cuban:The technology to make it all work didn't exist. We had to mix and match different hardware, software and communications in new combinations till we made it work. It was an amazing challenge. Then we had to figure out how to turn it into a business. It actually started as elevator music for websites to sports to live business events.

Sobel: The IPO was one of the largest in history and then you sold the company to Yahoo. Can you explain a bit about those deals and your exit strategy?

Cuban:We didn't have an exit strategy. We wanted to grow the company as big as we could make it. When Yahoo came along it made sense strategically and financially. But it was never the plan to sell. We thought we could grow into a major service, distribution and media company.

Sobel: The year is 2000 you became a team owner when youpurchased the Dallas Mavericks for $285 million from Ross Perot Jr. For you, a longtime season ticket holder, the chance to be a part of the professional sports world was a dream. The Mavericks, however, were far from a dream franchise. Can you share your thoughts?

Cuban: I just thought I could do a better job. The Mavs were horrible. I figured I couldn't do any worse. So I reached out to Ross Perot. He was happy to sell.

Sobel: Being ever controversial, online and off, you have become an unfiltered voice, a no holes barred personality among the rather conservative owners of NBA franchises. You made waves when you attacked the NBA's former director of officiating ,Ed Rush, by saying that he "might have been a great ref, but I wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen." In a recent article in AdWeek, you shared "Six Pieces of Advice for Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer.” What did you advise the former CEO of Microsoft?

Cuban:My advice was for him? Be yourself. Doesn't matter if you can dance or not. Dance!

Sobel: In a recent interview on CNBC you said “Google is a great place to look for things that have been around for a while, but it's not a good place to look for what's happening now. That's part of the challenge it's facing." Can you explain?

Cuban: Google indexes websites. People don't update websites every hour any more. Not even daily. Google indexes information that is comprehensive in many respects. Twitter users, on the other hand, post many times a day. News is posted as it happens. You get real time info on twitter not Google and that's an issue for Google.

Sobel: Finally, in a recent interview in Inc. magazine, your fellow shark Daymond John said, “Mark has a lot of money. He could buy all the sharks probably a couple times over, so he's like, 'You know what? I'll take a gamble.' He has more to gamble and play with. And he's going to be very hands-on, but don't call him every single day. You need a million dollars? Mark could give you two -- just don't call him until it's time for heavy lifting.” Your thoughts?

Cuban: I don't take risks. I know what I can do to add value and help make companies successful. I see things and can help in ways the others can't.