Entrepreneurs

Right as 'Shark Tank' investor Daymond John became really rich, he lost everything

Daymond John celebrating at Drai's Beachclub, the Nightclub at The Cromwell Las Vegas.
By Bryan Steffy | Getty Images
Daymond John celebrating at Drai's Beachclub, the Nightclub at The Cromwell Las Vegas.

Daymond John was born in Brooklyn, New York, and he grew up in Hollis, Queens. After his father walked out when John was ten years old, his mother hustled, working two and three jobs at a time, but she could still barely cover expenses.

There were months in the winter when they couldn't turn the heat on.

The first time John became passionate about anything was when he encountered hip-hop. The music was a movement that John felt inspired by, and he was determined to participate. He couldn't sing and he couldn't dance, but, he realized, he could dress the community.

His urban clothing company, FUBU, grew to be a $6 billion brand. "We had everything," says John, speaking at Forefront, the first large-scale live event of the I Will Teach You to Be Rich community in New York City. He had money, he had family. He loved what he was doing: Working for himself, traveling, partying with rappers, and living the good life.

And yet, just as John achieved financial success, his personal life unraveled before his eyes.

"Now I was rich and I could afford all the fake friends I wanted," says John. Caught up in the excess, John became an absentee husband and dad. He was in China six months of the year for work, and the other half of the year, he spent partying with celebrities and rappers.

His wife "literally saw me on TV more than she saw me in person, because I was in commercials all the time and other than that I was hanging out," says John. "I was so concentrated on work. Many of us who live with our families don't see our families."

124998_1882

As John became wealthy, he and his family lost their connection with the community. When John's wife cut herself and needed stitches, for example, and she complained about the pain, her neighbors responded, "'It doesn't hurt anymore. You are rich,'" recalls John.

But John's wife also had a hard time with the other upper-crust soccer moms. When she tried to talk to them, John says, they replied, "'Isn't your husband the one who makes those baggy jeans for all those people who are trying to rob us?'"

And John wasn't there for his kids. After his youngest daughter fell off her bike and had to get stitches, "she never got back on a bike again. Because her father consoled her over the phone."

His wife told him he was asleep at the wheel. She left him, saying, "You are no longer the person I fell in love with."

"She took everything from me," says John. "She took everything. And it wasn't one red cent. She took her love and my two little girls away from me. I wouldn't be there anymore on Christmas to watch my girls open up their presents."

Mo's Bows founder, 11-year-old Mo Morris, did not make a deal on "Shark Tank," but Daymond John promised to mentor him.
By Giovanni Rufino | Getty Images
Mo's Bows founder, 11-year-old Mo Morris, did not make a deal on "Shark Tank," but Daymond John promised to mentor him.

His wife relented, telling him that she wouldn't take his girls away from him completely provided he would deal with success by starting to pay it forward. He needed to start giving back to others. "This deal is non-negotiable," John says his wife told him.

John started by teaching others what he had learned on his way up. In 2015, John was appointed a Global Ambassador of Entrepreneurship as part of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) at the White House. In his role, John focuses on working with under-served entrepreneurs.

Also, John has been tapped to work on President Obama's initiative to mentor and support young men of color, My Brother's Keeper.

And John started to redefine wealth for himself. "Money is not success. Money just drives your problems in a Bugatti," he says.

"Success can be so many things," says John. "Success can be stopping human trafficking, it can be [being] dedicated to your faith, saving carbon imprint on this planet, saving those furry little friends of ours who can't fight for themselves, [being] a great husband, a great wife, a great mother. Maybe you are going to be one of the most underappreciated commodities in this country: a teacher. That is success."

"I know a lot of filthy rich people who are miserable," says John.

Today, John defines his wealth in relation to his family and the impact his work has on others. He has had a third daughter. And he believes that now he is truly rich.

"I am rich because I have my health, I have my faith, I have my little girls. I get to inspire people all the time," says John. "I also found out who those fake friends were and I found out the value of things."