It’s been almost a year since Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary abandoned his bid to head up Canada’s Conservative Party. But his campaign remains heavily in debt, a problem he can’t handle on his own.
The issue is not O’Leary’s lack of personal funds to cover the outstanding amount, which The Globe and Mail reported today was approximately C$530,000. It’s rather a matter of Canada’s strict campaign financing laws, which prevent a candidate from contributing more than C$25,000 to his or her own campaign.
In addition, O’Leary can’t tap his wealthy friends to cover the amount, as the law also limits individual contributions to no more than C$1,575 per person.
But as the Globe reported, O’Leary has found another way to use his Shark Tank fame to help cover the debt. He’s holding a fundraising event that will feature his co-stars Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban. The event, called “Three Sharks in a Castle,” is due to take place April 5 in Toronto.
The ticket cost of C$2,000 is within Elections Canada rules since events typically have to cover expenses before donations go to campaigns. Only 250 tickets are available for the “Three Sharks” extravaganza, for which ticket holders will get a tax credit of C$650.
But wait! There’s more.
O’Leary isn’t able to give money to his own campaign, but he’s offered to make “Three Sharks in a Castle” an additional fundraising effort for budding Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes. For every ticket sold, he’ll donate C$2,000 of his own money to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Through its NextGen program, the federal government will match those donations to athletes.
By going to the event, attendees will get some bragging rights, as their ticket not only gets them some Shark Tank wisdom, but also results in C$4,000 to young athletes — as well as some cash to pay off O’Leary’s campaign.
This was not the first attempt by O’Leary to find a creative way to pay off his aborted leadership bid. CBC News reported last June that the venture capitalist formally asked the commissioner of Canada Elections to allow his company O’Leary Productions to lend the campaign C$300,000. At that time, O’Leary had been out of the race for several weeks and many vendors remained unpaid.
The commissioner rejected the application. According to today’s Globe report, the campaign owes C$529,184 to various claims, including C$200,000 to O’Leary himself. Elections Canada permits candidates to use their own money to pay for personal expenses, but those funds must be repaid within three years.
The Globe report does not specify the nature of the expenses owed by the O’Leary campaign to O’Leary, but does note a candidate can be a “supplier” to his or her own campaign.
As for the shark event, good times are to be had by all. In a promotional video uploaded to Vimeo one month ago, O’Leary makes the pitch for attendees to come out and enjoy the Shark Tank back and forth. Notably, in the video — contrary to the Globe report — O’Leary says his matching funds will go towards helping entrepreneurs. The event’s official website also makes the same claim.
It’s entirely possible O’Leary changed his sales pitch for the event, after Team Canada’s strong performance in Pyeongchang, winning 29 medals by the count of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Here’s what the event website says about the roles Corcoran and Cuban will play in the event.
“O’Leary and Corcoran will open the event and discuss women in business, sexual harassment in the workplace and the global real estate market. O’Leary and Cuban will cover entrepreneurship, the Mavericks, Blockchain, Bitcoin, Net Neutrality and yes, his potential bid for the presidency of the United States.”
As for Shark Tank, it will be back for a new season in the fall.