A new Discovery TV show drops an 'Undercover Billionaire' off in Erie, Pennsylvania, with $100 to try and create a million-dollar business in 90 days

  • “Undercover Billionaire” is a new TV show airing on Discovery, premiering August 6, in which entrepreneur Glenn Stearns will try to create a million-dollar company in 90 days.
  • The twist is that Stearns, who made his money primarily in the mortgage lending business, will have to build the new business without his previous contacts or capital.
  • Whether Stearns succeeds or fails, the show will be a commentary on the American Dream and the archetype of the self-made mogul.

“Undercover Billionaire” Glenn Stearns, who came from a working-class family and made his fortune in the mortgage lending business, was certain he could do it all over again when he approached Discovery about making a TV show.

The premise was simple: Discovery would drop Stearns off in an average US city, with $100 in his pocket and without the contacts he’d built over 30 years in business, and see if he could create a million-dollar enterprise from scratch in 90 days.

Stearns was “100% confident” he could do it again, Discovery’s chief brand officer, Nancy Daniels,told Business Insider in an interview last year. “Before I met him, I was suspicious,” Daniels added, but eventually she became convinced Stearns might just be able to pull it off.

Now viewers will be able to see whether Stearns succeeded in the show “Undercover Billionaire,” which premieres Tuesday, August 6, at 10 p.m. on Discovery.

For the show, Discovery sent Stearns to Erie, Pennsylvania, without his “private jet and yacht,” where he assumed the alias “Glenn Bryant,” a “regular guy who’s spent the last 30 years in corporate America but always dreamed to have a business of his own,” the network said in a release. Stearns had a cover story to explain why there were cameras following him around.

“We truly are following him do this,” Daniels said of the show last year. In watching Stearns triumph or fall short, the show examines the idea of the American Dream, the archetype of the self-made mogul, and the economic opportunities available to an entrepreneur (without contacts or capital) in a mid-sized US city today.

“After 90 days, Glenn will reveal his true identity and share an added twist – the top performing team members will earn a stake in the company and a key role running it,” Discovery said in the release. “An independent financial evaluator will also assess the value of the new company to see whether it has hit the mark. If it’s a penny short of $1 million, Glenn will put $1 million of his own money into the business.”

While Stearns won’t be a household name to viewers (there are over2,000 billionaires worldwide), the Orange County-based entrepreneur founded Stearns Lending, a mortgage lending company that had over$500 million in revenue in 2014 and 1,700 employees beforeBlackstone acquired a 70% stake in 2015 (thedeal terms were not publicly disclosed). Discovery pegged Stearns’ net worth at over one billion dollars, though Business Insider was not able to independently verify that figure. Stearns doesn’t appear on Bloomberg’s or Forbes’ list of billionaires, but it is often difficult to estimate wealth that comes primarily from private companies.

Daniels said last year that Stearns had come to Discovery with the “idea of wanting to test himself,” and that the show was fundamentally about the “taking your own life into your own hands,” and the extent to which that is possible.

Stearns was confident that it was, and that he could recreate his own origin story using the principles that had guided his career. Viewers can see what actually happened starting in August.

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