“You should negotiate more stuff; you’re pretty good at it.” It’s supposed to be funny. You see, he’s Mark Cuban. He must be a great negotiator: he’s a billionaire! And he’s on television! I don’t especially know what to think of the guy. Pretty much all of his money comes from Broadcast.com — a company that he and Todd Wagner are generally given credit for starting, even though they were just the money guys and it was really all Chris Jaeb’s concept and implementation. But that’s pretty typical of the business world. I think it is actually because the business types know that what’s really hard is coming up with a new idea, they tend to push it aside.
Regardless, Cuban got all his money by selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo! at the height of the dot-com bubble when it was certainly way overpriced. But this isn’t an indication that Cuban is a good businessman or negotiator; it just shows that he was in the right place at the right time. This was, after all, the time of Pets.com. One thing we know about Cuban is that he is ethically challenged, and this has doubtless served him extremely well in business.
Normally, I wouldn’t have anything to say about Cuban — he’s just another example of how capitalism doesn’t work as it has been sold to Americans for the last two centuries. But I’ve been forced to watch these terrible AT&T commercials that feature him. Here is the shortest edit that I’ve been able to find:
I suspect that people are supposed to know him from that great pox on American television, Shark Tank. And so based upon the highly asymmetric “negotiations” on that show, it’s supposed to be a real thigh slapper. But what most comes across to me is just how self-impressed Mark Cuban is. And that’s always what comes across from Mark Cuban. That (and no sense of honor) seems to be all that he brings to the world — and sadly, this is more than enough. As Dean Baker and Karl Bode have recently noted, he’s not the sharpest of thinkers. But that’s why he writes for The Huffington Post — they love rich know-nothings.
But I find the commercial fascinating in that it seems to show that Cuban might be just self-aware enough to feel the need to star in a commercial that flatters him. Somewhere inside he must think that he’s a fraud. But it could be simpler than this. One thing that has been especially clear over the last several decades is that being rich is not enough for these people. They also must be loved. They must constantly be told that their wealth is a sign of their greatness. What is the point of having the economic power of a god if people don’t also treat you as a god? This is one reason that I believe in confiscatory taxes: no one should be allowed to be this rich because it makes them nutty. If Mark Cuban needs his boots licked, he can hire a boot licker, we don’t need our politicians and journalists doing it for free.
You have to wonder why is he doing this AT&T commercial. And the only reason I can think of is that he’s doing it because it flatters him. And he needs to be flattered: all the time and on a very big stage. And that is so pathetic that it actually makes me feel sorry for him.