Billion Dollar Buyer

Move over Donald Trump: Houston billionaire poised to become reality TV's next big star

Houston billionaire poised to become reality TV's next big star

Tilman Fertitta, September 2012, head shot
Tilman Fertitta stars in CNBC's Billion Dollar Buyer reality show airing in March. Courtesy Photo

Move over Donald Trump, H-Town's most high-profile billionaire is on his way to reality TV. CNBC and Landry's Inc. has announced that Tilman Fertitta will star in the network's new original primetime series, Billion Dollar Buyer, premiering March 22 at 9 pm Central Time.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to work with CNBC on this dynamic business show," Fertitta emailed from New York where he is currently filming episodes.

The Landry's Inc. chairman, CEO and sole shareholder continued, "I started out as a young entrepreneur and I'm really eager to connect with a whole new generation of young and promising start-ups from across the country. I look forward to sharing the lessons I've learned from building a business from the ground up into a global company." 

As CNBC describes it, the "new reality show introduces small businesses from across the nation to Fertitta, one of America’s most successful businessmen and billionaire hospitality mogul, giving promising start-ups the opportunity of a lifetime."

The hospitality-related companies that Fertitta will examine run the gamut from food and drink for his restaurants and casinos to linens and spa products for his hotels. He will visit two businesses per hour-long episode during which he will sample the offerings, meet the owners and evaluate their compatibility with Landry's Inc. According to the news release, "In the end, he’ll decide whether to place a transformative purchase order with one of the companies, both, or neither."

With an annual supply spend of $2 billion, his buy could be monumental. 

Fertitta has long been cozy with the concept of some sort of reality show. In 2003, he starred in a 48 Hours segment "Rich Kids: The Fertitta Family." And rumors abounded in years past that he was exploring opportunities for his own program.

Of this project, he explains, "First and foremost, I'm a businessman and when approached by CNBC  — a top rated business network — it seemed like an ideal fit."

Of note locally, the CNBC cameras will roll during Galveston Mardi Gras as they follow Fertitta on his merry rounds.

CNBC considers itself home for programs that celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. In a statement Jim Ackerman, EVP, Primetime Alternative, CNBC, noted, “We know there’s an appetite for high quality programming that dives into the world of small business and celebrates the American Dream."

Fertitta follows in the reality TV footsteps of billionaire businessman Trump, who inadvertently turned his reality show, The Apprentice, into a savvy election tool. Perhaps our next news on Fertitta will be a presidential bid. Not.

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