By Tom Siebert
Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, took some bank shots at President Trump on Tuesday, but dribbled away from whether he will wage his own independent campaign for the White House.
Speaking before the World Leaders Forum at Judson University in Elgin, the star of ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank” took stances on several simmering political issues but stopped short of announcing his own third-party candidacy for president.
“My legislative priority is to win a playoff game,” Mr. Cuban quipped, referring to the Mavs’ missing the NBA postseason for the past three years, and drawing laughs among the more than 400 people jammed into Herrick Chapel at the Christian college.
About his rags-to-riches journey, he said: “I’m just a grinder. I always have been. I didn’t get a small, million-dollar loan from anybody.”
That was an indirect reference to Mr. Trump’s self-narrative about how his father lent him the money that launched his lucrative real-estate business, although a recent New York Times investigation concluded that the president’s paternal assistance amounted to many more millions.
Mr. Cuban, who told CNBC last Tuesday that he was considering a presidential run, was interviewed by Mark Vargas, a 2004 Judson graduate, health-tech entrepreneur, conservative opinion writer, and former U.S. Department of Defense adviser on rebuilding war-ravaged economies through private and foreign investment.
The two Marks talked substantively about healthcare reform, gun control, income inequality, reaching diverse business markets, and even artificial intelligence (AI), which Mr. Cuban predicted will radically change the world’s economy in the same way that computers, the internet, and social media did.
“Vladimir Putin thinks so,” Mr. Vargas noted.
“I’d like to hear what Putin has to say about Helsinki,” joked Mr. Cuban, alluding to the Finland summit in July 2018 when the Russian leader spoke privately for two hours with President Trump.
But most of the hour-long conversation focused on the guest’s success story, which began with him selling garbage bags door to door at the age of 12.
“I was fired from a software store, living with five other guys, and feeling stressed and stuck,” he recalled. “I wanted to control my destiny, and starting my own company was the only way to do that.”
Mr. Cuban started several successful companies, including MicroSolutions, a computer consulting service that he sold in 1990 to CompuServe, and Broadcast.com, a sports radio website that was sold to Yahoo for $5.6 billion.
He elicited enthusiastic applause twice after asking the audience if they watched “Shark Tank,” the long-running series that allows aspiring entrepreneurs to make business presentations to a panel of five investors that includes Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, and Kevin O’Leary.
And the reality-TV celebrity regaled the audience with impressions of two television characters from his youth, Fred Sanford of “Sanford and Son” and Sergeant Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes.”
“I thought he was super funny,” said Judson freshman Carista Richie, who is majoring in Christian ministry. “And very knowledgeable.”
Graduate student Taylor Hilliard, who plans to work on his master’s degree in biomedical services at the university this fall, was particularly interested when Mr. Cuban spoke about the prospect of AI leading to more-accurate health diagnoses.
“The focus of medicine should be on the patient, and I want to be a part of that,” he asserted.
The World Leaders Forum resumes on October 8 when author, attorney, and diplomat Caroline Kennedy will be the keynote speaker at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center.
The daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy will be interviewed by conservative commentator Eric Metaxas, host of a nationally syndicated radio show.
The format will be similar to last year’s World Leaders Forum, which featured a lively but civil discussion between Democrat Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, and Republican Newt Gingrich, ex-speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Previous keynote speakers at the forum were former President George W. Bush, ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, then-President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan.
To purchase tickets for the fall event, visit JudsonU.edu.
Located in Elgin since 1963, Judson University offers a Christian, liberal arts and sciences education through its bachelor of arts degrees for more than 60 majors, minors, graduate programs, and online, as well as certification and accelerated adult degree programs.
Proceeds from today’s event support entrepreneurship and diversity scholarships for Judson students.
“My advice to students entering the workforce is that you don’t need to find the perfect job right away,” Mr. Cuban concluded. “Take that first job, find joy in the moment, approach it as a learning opportunity, and get smarter every day.”