Tilman Fertitta, a billionaire restaurateur, has been relentless in unearthing new businesses in the U.S. Yet unlike so many other private U.S. businesses, he's ruling out a move beyond the straits of Florida, at least for now.
Fertitta is the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the parent company of Landry's and the Golden Nugget Casinos. His latest venture involves helping to reverse the fate of struggling startups in his new CNBC prime time show, "The Billion Dollar Buyer." In a recent interview, Fertitta explained why his ambitions don't involve Cuba, which a number of multinational companies are eyeing in the wake of a shift in the island's relationship with the world's largest economy.
Given the presence many U.S. brands had in the country prior to 1959, Fertitta said he can appreciate the excitement surrounding Cuba's future prospects. Last month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts became the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since its revolution, announcing a multimillion-dollar investment a day before U.S. President Barack Obama made a widely publicized tour to the island. Starwood will manage and market two properties in Havana and signed a letter of intent to operate a third.
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"It is so centrally located in the Gulf of Mexico that form the East Coast, from Texas and from California, it's so easy to get to," Fertitta told CNBC. "It was the playground back in the '50s and the '60s."
As eager investors look to the Antillean island as a means to profit from the evolving but still thorny relationship with the U.S., Fertitta suggests that not everything that glitters is gold. He told CNBC there's still some time before Cuba becomes the latest investment grade Latin American economy.
The Texas mogul said the political nuances in Cuba remain murky, a factor investors should gauge before investing abroad. Fertitta insists that business owners understand the prospective terrain's political nuances.
"I don't even think we understand the political climate, still," he said. "It still might take the Castros being out and having to become a democracy before it really happens, all together."
Conversely, starting a business abroad is about being at the right place at the right time.
"I think it's going to take a few more years," he noted. "Until they get a few things worked out, I would definitely not go there — because you don't know what's going to happen."