Entrepreneurs

“I knew we were in the experience business”: How Mark Cuban made his mark on the NBA

Matthew Elmas /

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban. Source: EPA/Nina Prommer.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban is no stranger to controversy; the outspoken Shark Tank US judge has never been afraid to let people know what he thinks.

The Dallas Mavericks owner famously courted criticism in 2001 by saying the NBA’s head of refereeing wasn’t even fit to be a manager at US ice cream chain Dairy Queen.

But while the 60-year old billionaire may sometimes ruffle feathers, his think-outside-the-box attitude to business has had a lasting impact on American sport.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Cuban explained his rationale behind taking a risk on buying a majority stake in the struggling Mavericks team in 2000.

The $US280 million investment raised eyebrows at the time, but in the years since the team has undergone a remarkable turnaround, and is valued by Forbes magazine at $US1.9 billion ($2.64 billion).

“Prior to me buying the Mavs, NBA teams thought that they were in the basketball business,” Cuban told the BBC.

“I knew we were in the experience business.”

Having realised there was latent opportunity in the NBA’s storied franchises, Cuban set about diversifying the Mavericks, establishing dance troupes to entertain fans at games and investing in a state-of-the-art JumboTron that covered in-game crowd reactions.

Cuban has been a keen NBA fan since he was a child growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he believed the majority of fans filling arenas were casual watchers, rather than hardcore fans.

Today the Maverick’s generate $US233 million in revenue each year and in 2011 even won an NBA championship.

Cuban’s advice for entrepreneurs and founders with a unique or disruptive idea? Work hard, work strategically.

“Everyone has the will to win,” he says. “[But] only those with the will to prepare, do win,” he told the BBC.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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