November 12, 2018

BY ROBERT JANES

Reality television star, business mogul, right-wing politician and proficient user of social media tools. Those are some of the similarities between Kevin O’Leary and President Donald Trump.

On Jan. 18 O’Leary took to Facebook like Trump takes to Twitter to announce that he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.

“It’s official, I’m in,” O’Leary said in a live stream video. “The Conservative Party of Canada needs a candidate who can beat Justin Trudeau and bring back jobs to this country!”

O’Leary and Trump have been successful businessmen, operating various companies, but both have also had failures. What they are good at is sweeping their dirt under the rug.

Softkey was O’Leary’s first company, which he started in the basement of his home in Toronto in 1983. By 1995, Softkey had acquired The Learning Company (TLC), adopting the name.
By 1996, TLC had over 3,000 employees and boasted revenues of $800 million. However, the company began suffering losses and continued to do so until 1998, with a total deficit of over $1.1 billion.

Without conducting proper research, toy manufacturing company, Mattel Inc., purchased TLC in a bad deal in the spring of 1999 for approximately $4 billion.

With O’Leary as president of the digital division of Mattel, the company saw immediate losses, which resulted in a collapse of the share price, wiping out $2 billion in shareholder value.

In a January 2016 article in the National Observer, Bruce Livesey wrote, “One investor’s lawsuit says O’Leary cashed in his Mattel shares just before the losses were announced when the stock was at its peak, pocketing almost $6 million.”

It wasn’t until 2006, when O’Leary appeared on the TV show Dragon’s Den, that he became a household name. He played the angry dragon, always red in the face and annoyed. Sounds like Trump. He was not afraid to be arrogant or tell entrepreneurs their product or service was garbage. Sounds like Trump.

After what happened in the U.S., no one should underestimate O’Leary or presume to know how Canadians will vote. We have until Oct. 21, 2019 (the next federal election date) to question, educate and inform ourselves and wade through the rhetoric that is sure to come.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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