There are many things you can call Mark Cuban, but shy or retiring isn’t one of them. Wherever the billionaire and native Pittsburgher goes, he makes a big splash. Entrepreneur and owner of the NBA franchise Dallas Mavericks, Cuban was born in Pittsburgh on July 31, 1958 to Shirley and Norton Cuban, an automobile upholsterer, and was raised in Mt. Lebanon. His grandfather, a Russian Jewish immigrant, changed the family name from Chobanisky to Cuban when he arrived at Ellis Island.
Cuban’s Midas touch manifested itself early. He has recounted that he starting selling garbage bags when he was 12 to earn money for a pair of tennis shoes that he wanted. Cuban attended Mt. Lebanon High School, but skipped his senior year to enroll at the University of Pittsburgh. After one year at Pitt, he transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where he graduated from the university’s Kelley School of Business in 1981 with a B.S. in Business Administration. While others pursuing a business degree only dream of starting a business after graduation, Cuban was already testing his entrepreneurial mettle. While still in college, he gave disco lessons for $25 an hour and opened a bar in Bloomington in 1981 called Motley’s, which became a very popular gathering place.
In 1982 he moved to Dallas and began the first of many ventures that would prove to be stepping stones to even greater wealth and opportunity. Even though he had no computer training, he started a computer consulting firm, which he sold in 1991 to CompuServ. The transaction made him a millionaire at the age of 24.
Frustrated that he could not listen to Hoosier basketball games while living in Dallas, he and a partner started another business, Audionet, an Internet radio company, which eventually became Broadcast.com in 1998. Broadcast.com boomed and by 1999 it had more than 300 employees. At the end of that year, Yahoo! acquired Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion.
While Cuban could have retired comfortably, he is not one to rest on his laurels. In 2003, he purchased Landmark Theatres, a chain of 58 movie theaters. By 2011, Cuban was listed as No. 459 on Forbes’ list of the “World’s Richest People” with a net worth of $2.6 billion. He is also the co-founder of AXS-TV, the first high-definition satellite television network.
However, what Cuban became most widely known for was his purchase of the NBA franchise Dallas Mavericks. He took over the hapless Mavericks in 2000. During the 20 prior seasons, the Mavs had only won 40 percent of their games. By 2006, the Mavs were in their first NBA finals and on June 12, 2011, the Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship. The team is listed by Forbes as one of the most valuable teams in sports.
When Cuban first started attending Mavericks games, he had to sit in the cheap seats. Today, he owns the team, and is one of the most high profile franchise owners in all of sports. No shrinking violet, Cuban speaks his mind especially about the NBA and referees. He has been fined more than $1 million for his critical remarks.
When the Penguins and Pirates were struggling in the past, some prospective owners turned to Cuban. In 2006, he joined an investment group to purchase the Penguins, but their bid was rejected. While Cuban has expressed interest in the Pirates, nothing has ever come of it. Cuban also appears on the television show Shark Tank and is always expanding his portfolio of businesses.
In 2002, Cuban married Tiffany Stewart and they have three children, daughters Alexis and Alyssa, and son Jake. Today, it is estimated that Cuban is worth approximately $2.7 billion and Forbes assesses him an 8 on a scale of 1-10 as being self-made. Perhaps it is a reflection of his common roots, but Cuban is highly accessible. He regularly posts on his blog site blogmaverick.com and often answers email.
From garbage bags to billionaire, Mark Cuban is another in the long line of Pittsburgh entrepreneurs who have seized an opportunity, became very successful, and made their name a household one.
By Jan Palko