CNBC’s reality show “The Profit” portrays Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis as a financial savior for struggling small businesses. The cable TV show usually portrays Lemonis coming to the rescue of a struggling business, using his “Midas touch” to quickly turn things around.
But the network’s “Golden Boy” took on a little tarnish this week when 50 business owners who had appeared on “The Profit” banded together to file an amended complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleges that Lemonis, NBCUniversal and a production company ironically named “Machete” employed mob-like tactics against the companies that have appeared on “The Profit” in order to defraud business owners and take their companies.
“Marcus Lemonis is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a false prophet who uses his fame and fortune to steal small businesses from everyday Americans,” states the proposed amended complaint. “Through NBC’s television show, The Profit, Lemonis presents himself as a savior of struggling small business owners, all the while preying on the business he purports to be saving.”
The filing says that an eight-month investigation revealed that at least 51 companies that have appeared on the show suffered a similar “hellish nightmare” and pattern of humiliation, fraud, extortion and other charges.
“Lemonis strategically and deliberately drowns these businesses in debt to him and his entities in order to foreclose on them and take their assets and intellectual property to expand his own empire,” the filing states.
The show is now in its 8th season on CNBC. In the reality show, Lemonis supposedly uses the same skills and tactics that brought him to the top of the Camping World empire to help struggling businesses turn things around.
Business owners named in the complaint allege that Lemonis invests in the struggling firms, often requiring them to give him full control over company finances.
The U.S. District Court filing caught the attention of none other than editors at Forbes.com. The website did a very complete story on the claims whirling around Lemonis, including statements he made in his defense.
Lemonis denied he did anything wrong and suggested that the claims made by the 50 business owners were no more than a “grand shake down” made by “people who are not entitled to anything.”
NBCUniversal and CNBC declined to comment for the Forbes.com story.
To read the full story on Forbes.com, click here.