Marcus Anthony Lemonis (born November 16, 1973) is a Lebanese-born American businessman, television personality, philanthropist and politician. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Camping World, Good Sam Enterprises, Gander Outdoors and The House Boardshop, in addition to being the star of The Profit, a CNBC reality show about saving small businesses.
Early life and education
Lemonis, named Ricardo, was born to parents Abdallel (from Lebanon) and Nadia (from Baniyas, Syria) in Beirut, Lebanon, during the chaos of civil war and foreign invasions. He was abandoned at an orphanage 4 days after his birth. He was adopted during his infancy on July 29, 1974 by Leo and Sophia Lemonis, a couple living in Miami, Florida. His adoptive father was Greek, and his adoptive mother was Lebanese.
Lemonis was exposed to the automotive industry throughout his upbringing, his grandfather, Anthony Abraham owning two of the largest Chevrolet dealerships in the United States and Lee Iacocca serving as a family friend and later mentor and financial investor to Marcus, loaning him millions to start a recreational vehicle business. Lemonis graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in 1991, he went on and earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in criminology from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1995, and unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives shortly after his graduation, whereupon he refocused his career on the automotive industry.
1996 Florida House campaign
Lemonis, appearing on the ballot as Marc Anthony Lemonis, lost to two-term Republican incumbent Bruno Barreiro, 42.44 percent to 57.56 percent, despite being endorsed by the Miami Herald. The newspaper called Lemonis, a Democrat, a "political neophyte" but endorsed him because "he exudes energy and ideas."
Lemonis worked for his grandfather's car dealership in South Florida, Anthony Abraham Chevrolet. That dealership was acquired by AutoNation in 1997, and Lemonis subsequently held several sales and managerial roles under the new ownership. A family friend, Lee Iaccoca approached Lemonis and told him he wanted to "Create the largest RV chain" as the RV business model in the United States was "fractured". Iaccoca helped Lemonis start and acquire Holiday RV Superstores. From June 2001 to February 2003 he served as CEO of Holiday RV Superstores Inc. Following that, he co-founded a company called FreedomRoads and began acquiring RV dealerships. In 2006, the company merged with Camping World with Lemonis as CEO, and then, in 2011, merged with Good Sam Enterprises, with Lemonis again at the helm.
As the CEO of Camping World, Lemonis teamed up with NASCAR for the first time in 2004, when the company sponsored driver John Andretti. In 2007, Lemonis and Camping World announced they were taking over sponsorship of the NASCAR East Series from Busch Beer for the 2008-09 seasons, rebranding it the NASCAR Camping World Series. Later that same year, they also announced sponsorship of the then Craftsman Truck Series, rebranding it the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, making the company one of the sport's top three sponsors. In 2014, Lemonis teamed up with NASCAR to renew Camping World's sponsorship of the Truck Series through 2022.
In 2007, RV Business Magazine named Lemonis "Newsmaker of the Year" for having "more impact on the industry than any [other] single individual or company in recent memory as an agent of change and retail consolidation." Crain's Chicago Business featured him in their 2005 edition of "40 under 40"; and in 2008, Ernst & Young named him "Entrepreneur of the Year".
Under his direction, Camping World and Good Sam launched Project Good Samaritan as part of their 2013 goal to foster corporate responsibility, which requires a team of nearly 7,000 employees to volunteer 32 hours per year (eight per quarter) to causes that are meaningful to them.
In October 2016, Camping World went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CWH) at $22 a share, giving the company a market value of approximately $2 billion. As of December 18, 2018, Camping World was trading at $14.46 per share.
In April 2017, Camping World announced the acquisition of the assets of Gander Mountain, a camping, fishing and hunting gear retailer, including Gander Mountain intellectual property and trademarks, GanderMountain.com and boating and watersports lifestyle retailer Overton's.
In July 2017, Camping World announced the acquisition of The House Boardshop, an online retailer specializing in bikes, sailboards, skateboards, wakeboards, snowboards and outdoor gear. This includes The House Boardshop intellectual property and trademarks including the domains "thehouse.com" and "the-house.com".
Lemonis's philanthropic efforts have included support for the Joffrey Ballet, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Ravinia Festival, Lincoln Park Zoo, RV/MH Hall of Fame, Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, and through his time on Secret Millionaire, he contributed his time and money to National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment, New Journey's Transitional Home and Neat Stuff.
Rose's Wheat Free Bakery & Café was set to close its doors on Christmas Eve of 2012 when Lemonis stepped in with an investment that allowed the bakery to remain open. He wrote an initial check for $200,000 to become the majority owner of the business with a commitment of an additional $150,000 investment over the next 18 months. Not only did he save the existing bakery, but in March 2014 a second location in Highland Park, Illinois, was opened under his direction. Lemonis added Rose's and several other businesses, including Amazing Grapes, Betty Lou's, Crumbs Bake Shop, Dapper Classics, E-Net IT Group, Key West Key Lime Pie Co., Little Miss Baker, Tonnie's Minis, Mr. Green Tea, ProFit Protein Bars and Sweet Pete's to his holding company, Marcus Lemonis Enterprises LLC. He also expanded his portfolio in the automotive industry with two businesses from The Profit: 1-800-Car-Cash, an automobile buying service, and AutoMatch USA, which specializes in pre-owned automobiles and accessories. After renaming Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery & Cafe after his mother, Sophie, Lemonis closed both locations in 2015.
Lemonis was featured on two episodes of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, hosting marketing-related challenges. In 2011, he gave each team two Camping World RVs and challenged them to stage an experience in midtown Manhattan. In 2012, Lemonis challenged the contestants to write a 90-second jingle for Good Sam's Roadside Assistance program In 2012, Lemonis appeared on an episode of ABC's Secret Millionaire, returning to his hometown of Miami to help local charities.
In 2013, Lemonis became the star of the CNBC reality show The Profit, which features Lemonis on the hunt for promising yet faltering small businesses. In the show, Lemonis invests his own money for part ownership in the businesses to make them profitable. After the third season, Lemonis had invested $35 million in businesses featured in the program.
In 2017, Lemonis starred in, and co-produced, the CNBC program The Partner, in which he searches for a business manager to assist him with running the businesses that he invests in on The Profit.
Marcus Lemonis married Roberta "Bobbi" Raffel in 2018, and lives in Lake Forest, Illinois.