What is the origin of O'Leary's "billionaire" moniker?

McQueen%2C%20Mark44X64.jpgPosted by Mark McQueen, CEO Wellington Financial LP
There is no end to the benefits of the world wide web.
Just the other day, I was fortunate enough to come across an April 2000 New York Times article regarding Mattel’s brutal experience with its acquisition of The Learning Company. You know, the one they bought from its former CEO, and Canada’s high profile Dragon and Shark Tank-er, Kevin O’Leary. The tech co. that they acquired for US$3.6B, only to write it off completely just one year later (see prior post O’Leary Fund promises to share the wealth and wisdom” May 8-08)?
Here’s an excerpt from the NYT piece:
"Softkey also acquired the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation, known as MECC, Compton’s New Media and Broderbund Software Inc., and pursued a strategy of cutting prices and increasing distribution. For a time this plan resulted in increased revenue, but the new ownership also resulted in an exodus of talent, many no doubt dismayed by Mr. O’Leary’s oft-quoted remark that creating software titles was no different from blending new flavors of cat food."
"Learning’s revenue growth had already slowed before Mattel closed its acquisition. And in August, Mr. Perik and Mr. O’Leary sold a majority of their Mattel stock for $5.9 million each. They left the company in November, after Learning reported a third-quarter loss of $100 million. They each received $5.2 million in severance pay."
What have we learned? First of all, it appears that when our friend KO says on-air during one of these hairbrained “Reality” TV shows: “when I sold a technology company for billions of dollars”, or “when I sold a software company and made billions of dollars," he isn’t actually intending to suggest that he made that sum.
So why do others feel so comfortable attaching the label to him?
According to the financial disclosure of the day, KO cleared about US$6 million (pre tax) from his sale of the shares he had in TLC, and received another US$5.2 million (pre tax) as a departure package.
Not chump change, and it spends nicely on a house and a 2007 convertible 911. But nothing that puts Canada’s best known Dragon in the “Billionaire” league, as was reported in at least one Canadian newspaper:
"EnGlobe director and host of Business News Network’s Squeeze Play Kevin O’Leary, a self-made billionaire, is known to be the harshest of the Dragons."
Have you ever, in your life, read of anyone in Canada being referred to as a a “Billionaire” who actually had made less than $12 million (pre tax) on the biggest deal of their career? Makes you wonder: where do people get that “Billionaire” idea from in the first place?
(disclosure - this post, like all blogs, is an Opinion piece)

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