Mitch Garber, the CEO of Caesars Acquisition Company and of Caesars Interactive Entertainment – one of the largest gaming companies in the world of hotel-casinos and the Internet – is the new dragon on Dans l’œil du dragon, the French-language version of Dragons’ Den playing on Radio-Canada, and was recently appointed Chair of Cirque du Soleil’s Board of Directors. Luxe met this extraordinary businessman.
Why did you agree to become a dragon? What is it about this new challenge that attracts you?
At first I wasn’t interested. I thought recording the show would take up too much time. Then I changed my mind when I realized that it would be a wonderful opportunity for an Anglophone to appear on Francophone television. Right now there’s a wall between the two communities and I think that’s a pity. Also, my wife and I do a lot of work with non-profits. For instance, I’m on the Board of Directors of Fondation, Montréal inc., which awards grants to young entrepreneurs from Québec. This makes participating in Dans l’œil du dragon a natural progression from what I was already doing. Lots of young people leave Québec because they don’t think they have a place here. We have to change that and giving them a chance to express themselves in front of over a million people every week is a great way to do it! I’ll funnel most of my earnings from the show to Québec charities. Also, my children are fans of the program and encouraged me to participate. Dans l’œil du dragon is also educational, because they don’t teach you in school how to manage your money, your credit card, etc. It shows young people how important it is to manage your finances properly.
You’re a great lover of bilingualism. How did you learn French?
My grandparents lived in the Eastern Townships and I visited them every weekend. My grandfather was a doctor, and his practice was 50% Francophone, so I heard a lot of French spoken. Later I studied law in French at the University of Ottawa. I used to host a radio show on sports and I interviewed many Francophone guests. Finally, my wife of 23 years is a Francophone. I believe in preserving the French language and Québec culture, but also in the importance of being bilingual or even trilingual. Unfortunately we’ve allowed politicians to separate the two communities and it’s time for them to work together more closely!
In 2009, you agreed to head up Caesars Interactive Entertainment on the condition that you could have your offices in Montréal. Where does this attachment to Montréal come from?
I could have stayed in Europe or moved to Las Vegas to take advantage of more favourable tax systems, but I chose to stay in Québec because I like the culture here. I want my children to grow up in this rich culture the way I did. My family has had its roots in Québec for 108 years. I didn’t want to give up the culture for money.
What’s the best advice you could give to today’s young entrepreneurs?
An entrepreneur has to show tenacity and be able to survive the setbacks that occur when you’re creating a business. You have to work harder than your competitors. Also, it isn’t enough just to have a good idea: you need good people around you, the right attitude and the ability to carry your idea out. That’s what I look for as a dragon on Dans l’œil du Dragon.
As a sports fan, do you see any connection between playing sports and managing a business?
Most of the people I spend time with have one thing in common: they’re very competitive. Personally, I don’t think
I am competitive, but I do think I’m passionate. I play several sports, but just to keep in shape and for fun. Having passions and being active are part of life for a good entrepreneur, but not necessarily being competitive. It’s more about participating, being in the right place at the right time and feeling comfortable.
You are at the head of a business that is part of the gaming industry. Does this make you feel any social and moral responsibility?
Yes, totally. Playing responsibly is one of Caesars’ central values. We work to keep minors from playing and to steer those who can’t play in moderation toward help centres. We have specific links on our online gaming sites.
TPG Capital has just acquired Cirque du Soleil and you’re the new Chair of the Board of Directors. How do you see Cirque du Soleil’s future as a result of this transaction?
This investment fund shares the same values as Guy Laliberté and Cirque du Soleil. As well, its global network and its partnership with the Chinese firm Fosun are a winning combination. The Cirque’s head office will remain in Montréal. The creativity that makes the Cirque so valuable is here, in Québec, along with the leadership of Daniel Lamarre and his team. Finally, it’s an honour for me to be one of the Cirque’s investors and Chair of its Board of Directors. I have unlimited admiration for Guy Laliberté and the business he has created.
The fourth season of Dans l’œil du dragon is shown on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on ICI Radio-Canada Télé.