Already have an account?
Get back to the

Kevin O’Leary Says He Was Cast on ‘Shark Tank’ for Being an ‘A-Hole’: ‘I’m So Proud of That’

Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary was poised to be one of the show’s most intimidating Sharks from the very beginning.

“I went to see [producer Mark Burnett] at a restaurant [in a] hotel called Shutters at the beginning, before the pilot, and he said, ‘We’re looking for a real a-hole and you’re it,’” O’Leary exclusively told Us Weekly on Monday, September 25, while promoting Shark Tank’s milestone 15th season — which premieres on Friday, September 29.

Being one of the ABC series’ most formidable Sharks is a role O’Leary said he’s happy to take on. He joked: “I’ve won the Most Villainous Guy on TV [award] twice. I’m so proud of that. Sure, we’ve won a few Emmys, but winning the award as the Most Hated Man, that’s hard to do. I’m so proud of it.”

Before Shark Tank’s premiere in 2009, he and costar Robert Herjavec worked together on the show’s U.K. counterpart, Dragon’s Den. Just like O’Leary, Herjavec, 61, was contacted by Burnett, 63, to join the series — only on much shorter notice.

Like This, Watch That 'Yellowstone' and 'Lawmen: Bass Reeves'

Related: Love That? Watch This! New Fall Shows Reminiscent of 'Yellowstone'and More

“They were already starting to shoot and they had somebody else that was going to be me — somebody who was actually pretty famous, we can’t say — and then it didn’t work out,” the Canadian businessman explained to Us. “So, Mark called me. I was actually skiing, and he said, ‘We’re doing this show called Shark Tank with Kevin. You should come and do it.’ And I said, ‘Great. Where do you shoot?’ He said, ‘California. Can you be here by tomorrow?’ And we got a visa in 24 hours. It was incredible.”

Kevin O Leary Says He Was Cast on Shark Tank For Being an A-Hole
ABC/Richard Middlesworth

Despite his previous experience on Dragon’s Den, Herjavec thought Shark Tank would be a “hard concept to get off the ground” for American audiences. “In the first season, I remember we had dinner and we were all like, ‘Wow, that was great. We’ll never see you again,’” she shared.

O’Leary agreed, adding, “The premise was for reality TV, if you got five years, that was a huge run. And for the first few years it struggled, but then it captured the imagination of everybody that had inspiration to be an entrepreneur in America, and that’s everybody.”

Fall TV Preview 2023: Inside the Must-Watch New and Returning Shows

Related: Fall TV Preview 2023: Inside the Must-Watch New and Returning Shows

Now 15 seasons in, the show’s success “surprised everybody involved in it,” according to O’Leary. “It became a family show at the same time, it went geometric in its fourth year and we’ve never looked back,” he added.

The pair have grown close with their fellow Sharks Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner over the years, so much so that they aren’t afraid to poke fun at each other.

Kevin O Leary Says He Was Cast on Shark Tank For Being an A-Hole
Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary, and Lori Greiner ABC/Christopher Willard

“We’ve been working together for 15 years and I will say this — and this just shows you how much we like each other — I buy [Barbara] a new broom every year so she can make it to California,” O’Leary quipped, to which Herjavec replied, “You’re so mean to her.”

O’Leary, for his part, stated that he’s “not mean at all,” before stating, “I think of her like my great-grandmother, very lovingly.”

Shark Tank season 15 premieres on ABC Friday, September 29, at 8 p.m. ET.

With reporting by Christina Garibaldi

In this article