The sports world has never known Mark Cuban as anything other than the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The business world got to know Cuban a little bit sooner as the maverick who leveraged new technology into millions — and then turned those missions into billions.
Before all that, though, he was just a young guy trying to get by after moving to Dallas.
Mark Cuban turned a tech company into billionaire status
In 1995, Mark Cuban and friend Todd Wagner joined forces in a company called Audionet that specialized in live sports online, an intriguing but risky endeavor at a time when so many internet users were still connecting online via AOL on 14.4 Kbps modems. As delivery speeds increased, so did prospects for the company, newly rebranded as Broadcast.com.
Cuban and his partners got out before the dot-com boom went bust, selling for $5.7 billion in stock in an acquisition that Yahoo! executives would come to regret. Cuban made a series of moves to hedge against a collapse in the tech industry and cashed in all of his Yahoo! stock as soon as the lock-up period ended.
He went on to invest his $2.5 billion share of the haul prudently and today has a net worth estimated at $4.5 billion. In 2000, Cuban made one of his biggest deals when he bought the Dallas Mavericks from H. Ross Perot Jr. for $285 million. The NBA team has been a huge part of his identity since, just as Jerry Jones is so closely associated with the Cowboys.
Mark Cuban starts over in Dallas
Mark Cuban wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, nor did he have one upon leaving Indiana University with a management degree in 1981. After graduation, Cuban ran a campus bar and gave disco dance lessons before he briefly returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh.
In July 1982, Cuban, 23, packed up his car and headed to Dallas without a job or much money but with an offer from college buddy Greg Schipper to share a three-bedroom, $600-a-month apartment with five guys in a part of town popular with yuppies. The friends called the place “The Hotel.”
“Ours was a pretty nice apartment,” Schipper told the Dallas Morning News. “But by the time we got done with it, it wasn’t.”
Cuban’s first job in Dallas was as a bartender, and he soon afterward picked up a second job as a salesman at a personal computer software store, a virtual novelty at the time.
The future Dallas Mavericks owner was a party animal
One benefit to bringing Mark Cuban into their group was that he was a bit of a social animal who made friends easily. When they started throwing parties and everyone kicked in for beer and food, the six men generally ended up with more money than when the night started. Unfortunately, their luck took a turn for the worse when one of the roommates left town with the rent money. The remaining five found an eviction notice on their door in December 1982.
Cuban and Schipper left for an apartment in a nearby neighborhood. The remaining friends took in two newcomers, including Cuban’s brother Jeff.
Mark Cuban embarked on a new venture, founding a tech company called MicroSolutions, but he was also getting so good at organizing parties that the events outgrew the living spaces. Cuban, Schipper, and two others rented a Dallas warehouse and threw an epic bash: 2,000 partiers paying $20 apiece to get in and help drain 50 kegs.
“After that party, we separated the money and there’s $5,000 or $6,000 apiece, and we were excited about that,” said Scott Susens, another Indiana grad. “But I remember us thinking, ‘This is peanuts. We’re all going to make a lot of money someday.’”
They did, beginning with Cuban. He sold MicroSolutions for $6 million in 1990, giving him security while he set the table for his big score with Broadcast.com.