Businessman Tilman Fertitta has made guest appearances on national networks for years and now he's starring in his own TV show on CNBC, "Billion Dollar Buyer."
The hour-long show will premiere Tuesday on CNBC. Over six shows, he will travel the county meeting entrepreneurs and possibly changing their businesses and their lives if they can persuade him to buy their products for his more than 500 properties in 36 states and worldwide. His company buys $2 billion in supplies each year.
"(Tuesday's) is just a great show because it's four very small companies that I'm able to mentor and help out," Fertitta said in a phone interview with the Sun Herald.
He already had a full schedule as the sole owner, chairman and CEO of Fertitta Entertainment, which owns and operates Golden Nugget Biloxi and four other casinos, along with more than 50 restaurant brands such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Chart House and Morton's The Steakhouse. The company has revenues of more than $3.4 billion a year and assets of $3.5 billion.
"It's amazing how you can find time," he said.
Although the show is "harder than I thought," and tiring, he said, "I think it's great exposure for the company."
The people he mentors on the show soak up his advice. Whether or not it comes through on the program, he said, "every single one them has said. 'Gosh, I can't believe how much I learned.'" He hopes people watching the show will feel the same way.
"Billion Dollar Buyer" follows the same concept every week. Fertitta spends time with two small-businesses owners, samples their goods and assesses their compatibility with Landry's. He shares his business expertise and challenges them to making improvements before deciding whether to issue a purchase order for one, both or neither of the companies.
Fertitta said he doesn't know until he hits the boardroom -- where every show ends -- how it will turn out.
The series premiere was filmed in Houston, where Fertitta's business empire is headquartered. The first company featured is Macaron By Patisse, a sibling-owned specialty dessert shop financed by their parents' retirement fund. Also on the premiere is Bravado Spice, an award-winning hot sauce company run by two friends who turned their hobby into a career.
Other small businesses featured on the show this season will be East Side Glass Studio and Liber Cocktails, Austin, Texas; Further Products and Rossmore LA, Los Angeles; Galanter & Jones, San Francisco; iPourIt, Lake Forest, Calif.; Linoto Linens and Manveena's Solutions, New York City; Marcellino New York, Huntington Village, N.Y. and The Jam Stand, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Fertitta said he's sure some of the products he buys on the show will make it to Golden Nugget Biloxi and its restaurants.
"I'm even telling casting that I would like them to find some companies in Mississippi so that we could maybe shoot some scenes in Biloxi," he said.