Glenn Stearns: The truth about the Undercover Billionaire
Glenn Stearns: The truth about the Undercover Billionaire
Instead of dropping billionaire Glenn Stearns onto a deserted island like weve watched over and over again onNaked and Afraid,Discovery channel abandoned theUndercover Billionairestar in Erie, Pa. In many ways, the city might as well be a tropical jungle or frozen tundra if youre the kind of person whos used to hanging out on a yacht in the Virgin Islands.CBS Newsonce referred to the location as a sinking ship, and President Donald Trump described the citys backdrop as rusted-out factories, scattered like tombstones in his inauguration speech. Nonetheless, this is exactly what Stearns signed up for.
The billionaire, who built an empire in the mortgage-lending industry, hopes to recreate his rags to riches story inUndercover Billionaire a reality series that premiered in August 2019. Stearns life exemplifies the anything-is-possible American dream. He managed to rise up out of poverty, contend with becoming a dad as a teenager, and even beat cancer to become one of the worlds select billionaires, but can he grow a million-dollar business with just $100, an old truck, and a cellphone to his name? Lets invest a little time discovering the truth about Glenn Sterns.
Glenn Stearns didnt come from money. The billionaire is truly self-made (ahem,Kylie Jenner). His father was a printer and his mother was a grocery store clerk and house cleaner. As a child, the mortgage mogullivedin a low-income apartment complex in the suburbs of Washington D.C. We had bars on our windows, drugs were sold on street corners, and I wasnt allowed to play outside after dark, he told theHoratio Alger Association.
When he was 5 years old, Stearns reportedly found a gun near his home and carried it around for days. Someone once lit the buildings laundry room on fire while his 2-year-old sister was inside. She might have died, but I happened to be there to pull her out, he told the Horatio Alger Association. My childhood seemed normal because that was all I knew.
At age 8, Stearns moved to Rockville, Md., where his father purchased a home for a meager $14,000. This felt like a massive achievement at the time, and one thats hard to fathom considering Stearns reportedly took his 193-foot yacht, the Minderella, to St. Barths for abillionaire superyacht celebrationto ring in 2019.
Glenn Stearns troubled childhood eventually caught up with him. When he was 14 years old, his 17-year-old girlfriend became pregnant. When the baby arrived, Stearns mother who was already struggling to pay bills quit her job to take care of the child during the day. Stearns then-girlfriend worked a night shift and brought the little one to her parents home every night. It was a busy back-and-forth period, and Stearns admitted he didnt feel like much of a father.
I felt depressed when this all happened, as if Id let everyone down. How odd it felt to be more like an older brother than a father to my own daughter, he told theHoratio Alger Association. Stearns picked up a job at the local mall to contribute to the household bills, even though he had to hitchhike both ways because he wasnt old enough to drive. He worked part-time at a restaurant throughout high school and gave his mother most of what he earned.
Today, the mortgage mogul has settled into fatherhood and his happilymarriedwith six children and two grandchildren.
Glenn Stearns is a survivor not just of teen pregnancy and realityTV but of a serious health crisis. The mortgage mogul was diagnosed withthroat cancerin 2014, but managed to keep his spirits up throughout treatment. According to his friend, Virgin business mogulRichard Branson, Stearns used a Backgammon app on his iPad to gamble with his odds of recovery. He has been doing this since we met If I win this game, were going to get married if I win this game well get through this financial crisis, if I win this game Im going to get through this cancer. Good news: he wins every time, Bransonwroteon his Virgin site.
Stearns is currently in remission but credits cancer with sparking the idea forUndercover Billionaire. According toBusiness Insider,the billionaire wanted to show his children that its never too late to take a chance. He started thinking about the possibility of recreating his success. If he started a brand new business from nothing, would he still be able to come out, at the very least, a millionaire? I wanted to challenge myself and see if its possible to really make it again, or was it luck, he toldBusiness Insider.Stearns reality show idea was picked up by Discovery, who shipped the billionaire off to Erie, Pa. with nothing but $100, an old pickup truck, a cell phone, and a camera crew.
Considering Glenn Stearns resume, it makes sense that the billionaire would brush elbows with other billionaires. They need tostick together, right? There arent evenenough of themin existence tofill upa Carnival Cruise, but who needs an all-you-can-eat buffet when youve got a fleet of personal yachts with private chefs?
Stearns has fostered a close friendship with Virgin business mogul Sir Richard Branson (pictured), whose estimated$4.1 billionnet worth makes Stearnspersonal fortunelook like pennies. These billionaire bros purchased an island and built a resort in the British Virgin Islands. According toThe Orange County Register,Stearns invested $17 million into developing Necker Island, which istoutedas one of the worlds most exclusive island retreats. The island is also fully committed to sustainability and supporting the local ecosystem and community, reportedly assisting the flamingo population, hiring local staff, and working to rid the island of diesel generators in order to become energy independent. Sounds nice, right?
If youre hoping to stay on Stearns island, dont get your hopes up. At the time of this writing, its booked for the entire foreseeable future.
The early 00s was a defining moment forreality TV, particularly reality TV centered around rich people doing uncomfortable stuff.Paris Hilton and Nicole Richieleft the comforts of their trust funds to goworkon a farm inThe Simple Life. Britains best exports swapped their mansions for a makeshift jungle hut inIm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!Remember when Ashton KutchermadeJustin Timberlake cry in an episode ofPunkd,and when theOsbournes, well, were justThe Osbournes?
Stearns didnt escape from this era without ending up on aSurvivor-style show himself. In 2004, the billionaire appeared onThe Real Gilligans Islandalongside his wife, Mindy Burbano.For those who dont remember, this short-lived series saw contestants starring as characters from thesixties sitcom. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Stearns assumed theroleof the Millionaire and his wife, and according toBusiness Insider,he won the season.
Glenn Stearns has had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was just a kid. In fact, he entered the workforce after he failed the fourth grade. Thats right, he was just 8 years old when he started delivering newspapers for a meager $6 a month. After about two years, the mortgage mogul upgraded to a bigger paper called theMontgomery County Journal. It was there that he fell in love with the hustle and honed in on his skills as a salesman.
Each work day, hed get picked up in a van with a bunch of other boys and dropped off at an apartment complex. The clock would start, and Stearns would try to sell a bundle of papers before time was up. This was probably one learning experience I excelled at, he told theHoratio Alger Association. I was keen at analyzing the buyer. By the end of the night, I would have 12 to 15 sales, and the [other] guys would have only 2 or 3.
Glenn Stearns was the first person in his family to go to college. He graduated from Towson University with a degree in economics and has since built a billion-dollar empire and become a reality TV star. Despite his successes and his private island resort it didnt look like Stearns was going to jump into academia when he was in grade school. According to theHoratio Alger Association, he struggled in the classroom and failed the fourth grade but it wasnt really his fault. The self-made billionaire had no idea he was suffering from a learning disability.
Stearns had been diagnosed with dyslexia, which affects between 14.5 million and 43.5 million Americans, but his parents reportedly hit his diagnosis from him. According toLD Online,people with dyslexia struggle to read, write, and spell regardless of their intelligence, but before the disorder was understood, those who suffered from it were often labeled dumb and lazy. Stearns told the Horatio Alger Association that failing fourth grade humiliated him, and hegraduatedfrom high school in the bottom 10 percent of his class.
Glenn Stearns family didnt just struggle financially. The mortgage mogul admitted that both his mother and father drank heavily when he was growing up. He comes from a long line of alcoholics, and according to theHoratio Alger Association, his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother all died from alcohol-related issues. Stearns even recalled a moment from his childhood when his dad was arrested after a father-son fishing trip. My dad was drinking heavily that day, and he passed out in the truck, he said. I helped drive us home and nearly made it, but a block from my house we wrecked the truck. The police came and took my father away. Life is what you see and that was life.
Stearns parents divorced when he was 17, but he says that his father considers the split as the wake-up call that saved his life. When Stearns mom walked out on the marriage, his dad finally admitted he was an alcoholic, entered recovery, and reportedly hasnt touched a drink since.
Glenn Stearns didnt start out in a mansion or on a private island. The star once called a kitchen floor his bedroom. In a move that sounds oh-so-millennial (even though Stearns is ababy boomer), the billionaire moved to California after college and shacked up in a one-bedroom apartment with five other recent graduates. According to hiswebsite, he waited tables, slept on the kitchen floor, and eventually landed a job as a loan officer. He reportedly lasted ten months in the role before taking the leap and starting his own business, Stearns Lending, at age 25. (Clearly, this entrepreneur did not spend all his savings onavocado toast.)
According toDiscovery,it took about two decades for the mortgage company to hit nearly $1 billion a month in funding and this was in 2010,afterthe devastating financial crisis that more or less gutted Wall Street and the mortgage-lending market. By the time Blackstone bought a majority stake in the company, it was pulling $571.7 million in revenue, according to theOrange County Business Journal.
Glenn Stearns is undoubtedly living a life of luxury the kind where you can snag a$250,000 ticketon a Virgin Galactic flight like its a cheap go-kart excursion at a local theme park. Despite all the obvious comforts that billions can buy, like a yacht called the Minderella (his wifes name is Mindy), Stearns toldBusiness Insiderthat his most memorable moments occurred before the fame and fortune, when he was still struggling to build a prosperous future. Id never felt more alive than when I was going for it, swinging for the fences, he said.
This realization in combination with his cancer recovery prompted him to createUndercover Billionaire.The mortgage mogul wanted to feel the rush of building something from nothing all over again. Yes, this guy is so rich that hepretendsto be poor in the way we pretend to have millions by ordering our brunch cocktails with Titos instead of whatevers in the well.
Glenn Stearns rags-to-riches story isnt without its fair share of failures. The billionaires namesake company, Stearns Lending, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2019 less thana monthbeforeUndercover Billionairepremiered. According toInman,the company owes money to as many as 299 vendors, including $189 million owed to Wilmington Trust. Stearns business reportedly reached an agreement with Blackstone to restructure and get its finances back on track. As part of the bankruptcy deal, the private equity behemoth will give Stearns Lending $60 million in new capital and a $35 million bankruptcy loan. In exchange, Blackstone will take over the companys ownership. It previously held a 70 percent stake, according toBusiness Insider. The deal reportedly allows Stearns to preserve 2,700 jobs.
Despite the bankruptcy and a foray into reality TV, Stearns toldBusiness Insiderthat hes ready to take a run at the mortgage banking business again. Only time will tell which venture is easier: diving back into business with a billion dollars under your belt or finding success onUndercover Billionairewith 100 bucks in your pocket.
At the start ofUndercover Billionaire, Glenn Stearns doesnt even have a place to live. He spends anight in his carthat ends with him vomiting out the door during an interview with producers. Needless to say, his business plan was totally up-in-the-air as well. In an interview withGo Erie,the billionaire admitted he originally wanted to jump into the world of craft beer, calling the brewing community a close-knit group.
However, after spending some time with local brewers, Stearns realized he had to ditch that idea. It turns out running a brewery is a really difficult labor of love, and theres apparently no get-rich-quick scheme. These guys are artists. They really are. They know what theyre doing and its a lot more difficult than I imagined, he toldGo Erie.I realized that was hard and to try to build that kind of business in 90 days, it wasnt gonna happen.
Instead, Stearns launched a restaurant called Underdog BBQ, which currently has an okay rating onYelp, so youll have to watch the reality show to find out if Stearns made a million in the series 90-day time frame.