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Culture / Newsy

A Houston Billionaire Beats Mark Cuban at His Own Game

New Reality TV Show Displays the Power of a True Super Tycoon

BY // 01.14.16

Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones need to make way. It turns out that Dallas doesn’t have the most interesting billionaires in Texas, after all.

Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta — who recently played a huge role in securing a new $3 million-a-year contract for coveted UH football coach Tom Herman — is getting his own reality TV show. Fertitta’s show will be along the lines of Cuban’s Shark Tank star turn, with the Houston casino and restaurant tycoon scouring America for innovative startups.

Fertitta, however, is the lone star of this show, whereas Cuban shares the Shark Tank stage. Fertitta’s real-life buying power is also second to none — a $2 billion annual supply spend for his more than 500 properties and 50 restaurants and hotels.

Fittingly, his new primetime show is dubbed Billionaire Dollar Buyer and will anchor CNBC’s attempt to make ratings inroads in the seemingly-burgeoning reality TV business genre.

For the billionaire, it’s another step toward becoming a much more public and recognizable figure. Fertitta, the driving force behind the ever-growing Landry’s restaurant chain and the Golden Nugget casinos, has never been afraid to put himself out there in public. Or on TV in smaller doses. But a regular series represents a whole new level of national attention.

The hour-long show premieres on March 22 at 9 p.m., with each episode featuring two small startup businesses vying for the Tilman touch. If Fertitta likes a business and thinks it’s a fit, he’ll place “a transformative purchase order” for one of his companies. When you’re a billionaire, you have the power to change lives and the course of a startup with one “yes”.

Fertitta’s been in New York filming episodes, employing the city that Donald Trump used to great effect in The Apprentice. Still, Fertitta’s unlikely to channel the bombastic self-loving Trump. It’s just not his style. And he’s not firing anyone on his show.

CNBC also aims for a more business-savvy audience than a primetime network TV show does.

“We know there’s an appetite for high-quality programming that dives into the world of small business and celebrates the American dream,” says Jim Ackerman, CNBC’s head of alternative primetime programming. “With the addition of Billion Dollar Buyer to our already robust lineup, CNBC continues to be the home of programs that celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit.”

A huge chunk of Fertitta’s entrepreneurial spirit has focused on his beloved Galveston, and Billion Dollar Buyer will also film there. It’s not Mark Cuban or Donald Trump‘s world, and that’s just fine.

America will see a new breed of billionaire — a Houston billionaire.

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