CNBC’s The Profit concluded its eight episode season eight just over one year ago, and now Marcus Lemonis has a new HGTV show, The Renovator.
Does that mean The Profit is cancelled? Will it ever return for season nine or beyond?
I asked Marcus Lemonis about that—and also about the companies from the show that are now suing him, and about the language in the show’s contract that called his on-camera deals “simulated investments” that used a “prop check.”
The short answer is that The Profit, starring Marcus Lemonis, is over after eight seasons.
I asked if him if it was specifically cancelled or dead. “I’m not done making business television, if that’s your question,” he said. “But I am done making business television at CNBC.”
CNBC owns the rights to The Profit brand, so they could theoretically bring it back with another host. Marcus told me that his initial contract was for “one plus five,” and “then I signed up for another two seasons. And at the end of that last season, it was time for both of us just to go do something different.”
Marcus said we can expect “an announcement soon” for his next business television project, while his first home renovation project, The Renovator, premieres on HGTV Oct. 11.
As to The Profit, it’s still making headlines because of lawsuits being filed by businesses on the show. When its final season aired last year, more than half the businesses who’d been featured were suing.
Another business, Precise Graphix, which was featured in season three in 2015, just filed a $30 million lawsuit in May of this year, while a business that was not even mentioned by name in the 2020 special episode about Grafton, Illinois, sued in March, accusing NBCUniversal and Marcus Lemonis of “corruption, misconduct, slander, and misuse of power through deceptive business practices.”
Did any of this have any effect on The Profit’s future? Marcus said:
“A lot of that noise started even before—as you know—before we had even started filming season eight.
I said to the network: If you think something was something wrong when here, let me go. I don’t need to make any more episodes. And their response was, Oh, no, you’re making these episodes.
It definitely caused me to be different in season eight than I had been. The entire time, I thought to myself, am I going to meet this person nine years from now, and they’re going to say something nine years from now?
It took the joy out of the show, it took the fun out of the show, but it did not take my willingness to do deals. It did not take my desire to make more business television away. And it didn’t take away the good relationships I have from the show.”
The Profit’s contract with the companies who appeared—which you can read, in full, below—has some surprising revelations.
The contract calls on-camera negotiations “Simulated Investment” complete with a “prop check.” It also It says that any “Actual Investment and/or Loan Transaction” from Marcus Lemonis will take place “in private and off camera.”
I asked him if that accurately reflects his experience filming The Profit, and if people who watched the show have a good understanding of the actual business relationships formed with the companies, some of which are now suing him.
Here was Marcus’s full answer:
“I have—against my better judgment, but in line with everybody around me—have elected not to get mixed up in the fodder of it all, not to get down in the weeds. When you have somebody coming back after nine years, and saying, Oh, we want some money. Oh, we want some money.
I think the problem is, when I look at the every single episode, and I look at the amount of money that the deal was for on the show, in every single case that I can think of—and I could be proven wrong—but in every single case that I could think of, the business owners ended up getting materially more, never less, materially more. And whether they got my balance sheet, whether they use my personal guarantee to secure real estate loans, whether they use my businesses to drive their own business, or whether they got cash, they got a lot more than what was originally anticipated.
I think the frustrating part for me is I was told early on, Don’t fight back. Let people say what they want. It’s going to come and go, the more the more oxygen you give it, the more it’s going to breathe.
What’s most upsetting for me is that I spent almost a decade of my life, and to have people pursue greed over what’s right, I think is more sad and disappointing to me than anything. And if they end up picking up 100 grand or 50 grand of what I call nuisance money—because that’s usually what happens, as you know—they still have to pay income tax on it, and they still have to live with themselves.”
As to the provision of the contract that says producers can “fictionalize” a company, Marcus said,
“I wish that that somebody would release the actual raw footage, somehow, some way. [The Profit executive producer] Amber [Mazzola] will tell you the same thing I will tell you: I can’t think of an instance where we ever made somebody—and I could be proven wrong—but I can’t think of an instance instance where we ever made somebody look worse.
But I can think of plenty of instances where we made them look better—even the bad ones. Tax evasion, domestic issues, drinking issues, drug issues. We always decided—Amber and I had always talked about it—that the purpose of the show was not to expose people, it was to inspire people and help their business. If they had deficiencies on their own, this wasn’t the place to expose those.”
The Profit’s contract
The Profit’s contract was included in a 341-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. (It’s case 21STCV41185, and it appears to have gone to arbitration, as there’s a “Post-Arbitration Status Conference” scheduled for next April.)
The contract, or more formally the “Reality Participation Agreement, Release, and Arbitration Provisions – Business,” is between Machete Productions, which produced The Profit, and the company, not Marcus Lemonis himself.
The time Marcus spent with businesses is referred to as the “Consultation Period,” which is separate from the “Actual Investment/Equity.”
In the “Simulated Investment” clause, there was a provision there that Marcus said he was not aware of. “The release that that every single party signs, if you read it—which you did—says that they are not obligated to do any business with me, and that whatever money I spent on the show, they can keep, and they can tell me to kick rocks, right,” he said. “I didn’t know that.”
Read the full contract here, which I’ve annotated with provisions I found interesting, including those about:
- creating “a dramatic moment,”
- fictionalizing footage,
- the lack of compensation for being on the show,
- the inability of a company featured to publicize their own episode,
- hidden cameras,
- and much more: