Tilman Fertitta, host of the hit MSNBC reality television show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” is slated to speak at 11:30 a.m. Friday in The Pavilion. The first 1,000 students will be treated to free lunch.
A lifelong business man, Fertitta is the chairman, CEO and sole owner of Landry’s Incorporated, which successfully owns more than 500 restaurants, casinos and entertainment destinations throughout 35 states.
Popular businesses Fertitta manages include restaurants like Landry’s Seafood, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Golden Nugget Casinos and aquariums in Houston, Denver and Nashville, Tennessee.
Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi is relatively young, having only been open for five years, and is one of Fertitta’s most valued businesses.
“I am extremely proud of the Golden Nugget Biloxi. As with all of our Golden Nugget Casinos, we set the standard for luxury accommodations, the latest innovation in gaming, quality entertainment and night-life, excellent dining and relaxation through our Spa and H2O pool,” Fertitta said.
The event is co-sponsored by the the business school, Ole Miss Athletics and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Long-time friend and president of the Ole Miss Real Estate Advisory Board, Blake Tartt III, was essential in helping bring Fertitta’s candor, humor and wisdom to The Pavilion.
“I have close, personal ties to Ole Miss through family and friends,” Fertitta said. “When Blake Tartt asked if I would come and speak, I was glad to have the time to do so.”
“The Ole Miss Real Estate Advisory Board wanted to bring in speakers we feel have a positive message. In today’s world, positive messages are important,” Tartt said.
Tartt said he is looking forward to Fertitta sharing his wisdom with young students.
“It will be an amazing positive message that if they go out and work hard, they can be successful, too,” Tartt said.
Even though freshman integrated marketing communications major Puffer Thompson is required to attend the lecture for class, he said he is still excited about hearing Fertitta speak.
“I can’t wait to hear how he was able to become a billionaire in the food service industry because I have worked years in food service and know it’s a very hard industry,” Thompson said.
The first half of the hourlong program will consist of Fertitta’s life story of how he got to where he is today. Fertitta will discuss his upbringing working at his father’s restaurant after school, becoming partners of the first Landry’s opened in 1980 and then eventually buying and controlling interest in the company in 1986.
“Learning from him will be great, but I would love to ask him which one of his restaurants is his favorite and if he eats there often,” Thompson said.
Students will also have a chance during the second half of the talk to ask the billion dollar buyer himself questions. A Q&A-type discussion will be held during the last half hour of the presentation, moderated by Will Norton, dean of the journalism school.