Add Mark Cuban -- billionaire businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team -- to the list of people who credit novelist Ayn Rand with inspiring them to become American success stories.
Cuban read Rand's The Fountainhead "three complete times and untold number of little snippets and segments," he said in an interview on C-SPAN (March 26, 2006). He first read the book in high school, and it taught him that "it doesn't matter what everybody else thinks -- it's how you see yourself and what your own dreams are."
On Slate.com (November 15, 2005), Cuban said the book "was incredibly motivating to me. It encouraged me to think as an individual, take risks to reach my goals, and responsibility for my successes and failures. I loved it."
Rand's freedom-loving philosophy apparently also encouraged Cuban to become a libertarian. In the Austin American-Statesman (May 19, 2006), Cuban said his politics are "independent, leaning to libertarian. I vote for the candidate who I think will do the least." On his blog -- www.blogmaverick.com -- he described himself as "a libertarian at heart" (March 8, 2006). On C-SPAN, Cuban said he is a "less is more" kind of libertarian. "I think there's room for government," he said. "I'm not an abolish-all-government type guy. But I think, you know, less is more..."
On his blog, Cuban has expressed strongly libertarian-sounding opinions about government and politicians. Some examples:
• "I don't have a favorite politician. I don't donate money to politicians. I think any cause is better than getting a politician re-elected." (December 31, 2004)
• "As a country, our politicians are spending taxpayer money, OUR money, as if there is no limit to how big a deficit they can run. Left to their own devices, politicos will do what they always do, spend more money. That is the culture in our government today." (January 8, 2005)
• "I hate politics. My experiences in that world range from slimy to slimier." (September 4, 2004)
However, Cuban holds other views that are well outside the libertarian mainstream. He opposes privatizing Social Security ("I personally couldn't think of anything more threatening to our future..."), supports foreign aid ("We have taken on the responsibility of helping...others around the world... It's a good role."), and supports the invasion of Iraq ("I think we're there for the right reasons.").
Such maverick views are typical of Cuban; he goes his own way and genuinely doesn't care what other people think.
Cuban (born 1958) started early as an entrepreneur. As a child, he sold garbage bags to neighbors, and he helped pay for his college education by giving disco dancing lessons. After graduating from Indiana University, he moved to Dallas, Texas and founded MicroSolutions, a computer consulting firm. In 1990, he sold it to CompuServe, earning $6 million.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 1995 Cuban co-founded Audionet, a company that broadcast sporting events over the still-nascent Internet. The company changed its name to Broadcast.com in 1998, and in 1999 Cuban sold it to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion worth of stock. Even after the dot.com bust, Cuban still made almost $2 billion from the sale.
In 2000, Cuban purchased the Dallas Mavericks, and vowed to turn around the struggling NBA franchise. Watching every home game from his seat in the stands alongside other fans, Cuban was a hands-on manager who poured money into the team. An influx of high-priced players helped the Mavericks earn a spot in the playoffs for six consecutive years. In 2006, the team made it all the way to the NBA Finals for the first time in their history (but lost to the Miami Heat). Cuban's passion for the Mavericks has come at a high cost; the NBA has fined him more than $1.6 million for criticizing referees and the league.
Cuban also stayed busy in other ways. In 2000, he co-founded a media company, 2929 Entertainment. The company co-produced the Academy Award-nominated movie Good Night and Good Luck (2005), and owns the Landmark movie theater chain, HDNet (a high-definition satellite television network), and the TV show Star Search.
In 2003, Cuban created the Fallen Patriot Fund, a charity that provides assistance to the families of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq. In 2004, he starred in the short-lived ABC Television realty show, The Benefactor, in which he promised to give away $1 million to a needy person.
All his success hasn't changed the famously free-spirited Cuban; he still enjoys rap music, conducts most of his business dealings by e-mail, and never wears a wristwatch. That lifestyle suits him just fine, he told the Austin American-Statesman (May 19, 2006). "When I die, I want to come back as me," he said.
On his politics: "Independent, leaning to libertarian. I vote for the candidate who I think will do the least." -- Mark Cuban in the Austin American-Statesman (May 19, 2006)