Lake Forest multimillionaire Marcus Lemonis took the stage at a TV critics tour in Beverly Hills on Monday to talk about “season 2b” of “The Profit,” his CNBC reality show aimed at salvaging struggling small businesses.
“The Profit” has been a success story for the financially focused cable network; the show’s ratings doubled during its sophomore season and CNBC has ordered up another batch of 10 episodes that will start airing Oct. 14.
The deep-pocketed CEO of Camping World has spent $7 million of his own money bailing out floundering businesses on the show. He recently was in the headlines for coming to the rescue of bankrupt cupcake dealer Crumbs, but that deal was done off-camera and therefore won’t be part of the show.
“Part of what drew me to Crumbs is there were two Crumbs stores in Chicago: West Madison and Water Tower,” he said. (He expects about 27 to 30 Crumbs outlets —a little more than half — will remain open after he looks at the books and renegotiates rental agreements.) Chicago’s pair of stores are safe, Lemonis said.
“They are going to stay open for sure — just because they’re by my house,” said the Lebanese-born entrepreneur who was adopted and grew up in the States.
Lemonis said the surviving Crumbs stores will expand their inventory to sell products from companies whose names will sound familiar to fans of the show: Key West Key Lime Pie Co., Matt’s Cookies, Mr. Green Tea ice cream and Sweet Pete’s candy — all businesses “The Profit” has helped.
No Chicago-based businesses will be featured in the upcoming season, which will include an installment that checks in with some of the companies highlighted in earlier episodes.
One extremely successful Chicago-area business Lemonis recently had his sights set on was Oak Brook-based Portillo’s Restaurant Group, which reportedly is being sold to Berkshire Partners for a cool $1 billion.
I asked Lemonis how much he was willing to fork over for Portillo’s and what he thinks about the deal.
“I can’t disclose the amount [I offered] but I can tell you it was a couple hundred million less,” Lemonis said. “The Portillo family is an amazing family. The restaurant is an amazing concept. But it’s still economics. Berkshire Partners out of Boston has a Herculean task in front of them. They’re out-of-state investors that are going to invest in a business that’s right there in our hometown. But I’m confident they’ll do a good job. Mr. Portillo won’t have it any other way.”