Mitch Garber rose from humble beginnings to head up a $2.5-billion empire

Mitch Garber has been up and down the seven kilometre long Las Vegas Strip hundreds of times. He knows it like the back of his hand.

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Everyone knows him, and everywhere he goes, he’s greeted by “Hey Mitch. How’s it going?” The 51-year-old Canadian is one of the strip’s most influential powerbrokers.

You could call him “The Ringmaster”.

On the day we join him, the lawyer-businessman points out the Vegas landmarks he is responsible for overseeing as CEO of Caesar’s Acquisition Company, which owns six casinos and hotels in the U.S., four in Vegas.

He’s also head of Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment which controls the World Series of Poker.

And last year, Cirque du Soleil creator Guy Laliberté wooed him into becoming Chairman and investing in the world famous circus.

“Guy and I have been friends for a long time. When he decided he was going to sell the Cirque du Soleil, I ended up involved with one of the groups trying to buy the company,” he recalled in an interview with W5.

For all of this, he’s worth around $200 million, something he doesn’t like to discuss or admit.

You can’t help but like this man. Humble and nice would probably describe Mitch Garber. Put aside the high profile career and glamourous lifestyle, he seems pretty grounded.

“I don’t have a temper. I try not to get too high and I try not to get too low.”

Mitch was born and grew up in Montreal. His rise to the ranks of self-made mega millionaire, a bit of a rags to riches story.

“I was kind of the poorest kid surrounded by a very wealthy community and I wanted what other people had”.

He was raised by a school teacher mother and entrepreneur father.

His father, Steve Garber, was an innovative restauranteur, the first person to deliver pizza to homes in North America, even before Domino’s did it in the mid-60s. But Steve Garber also had an unhealthy habit of playing the stock market and eventually lost his fortune. Tragedy followed, when he took his own life. To this day, it haunts Mitch.

“Sadly he was a very tortured person. And I don’t know all the reasons why and I don’t know all the levels of internal conflict that he had.”

Mitch admits his father’s legacy has driven him to succeed. “I think he would be satisfied hopefully that I’m a good father, a good husband and that I’ve made a success out of myself professionally and used that law degree to do good things.”

The three days W5 spent with Mitch Garber in Las Vegas were like a whirlwind. From watching a rehearsal of Cirque du Soleil’s production of KÀ, to a front row seat at the World Series of Poker Final, to celebrating victory at one of the strip’s most impressive nightclubs, and hanging out with Celine Dion, just prior to her performance at The Coliseum in Caesar’s Palace. He’s a friend.

“Not only do I pinch myself and ask how did I get here, I sit in meetings with some of the most famous business people and multibillionaires in the world. And I often say to myself. Are you really here?”

It brings us back to what keeps him grounded. Family, wife Anne-Marie, sons Ryan and Dylan; and Montreal, home-base, despite the millions in taxes he pays, which he wouldn’t have to if he lived in Las Vegas, which is a tax free jurisdiction.

“I wanted my kids to have the same Canadian feeling, the same Quebec upbringing and education that I had and my wife had.”

While many Canadians until now may never have heard of Mitch Garber, Quebecers know him as a lawyer who specialized in gaming and gaming laws, a youthful TV sports interviewer and a dragon on the French language version of “Dragon’s Den”-- ”Dans l’oeil du dragon”.

Add it all up and life can’t get much better, although like some of the contestants on “Dans l’oeil du dragon”, who fail to convince the dragons, Mitch also has tales of missed opportunities.

“I met the owner of Hotmail when he was just starting Hotmail and he offered me to join and invest in his company and I said there’s no money to be made here in free email,” he laughs, recalling that Hotmail was eventually bought by Microsoft for $500 million.

But an important part of Mitch’s story is not just about being successful; it is also about paying it forward. He’s made a pledge to give away $1 million annually to charity. He says that with great success comes a moral responsibility. It’s something he believes would have made his father proud.

Watch the W5 episode of The Ringmaster on Saturday, Feb. 13 on CTV



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