Dallas

No, Mark Cuban Didn’t Buy a Town to Turn It Into Jurassic Park, but to Help Out a Friend

The internet is just one giant game of “Broken Telephone.” You know, that game you played as a kid when you sat in a circle and everyone would whisper a word in another person’s ear until the original message was garbled.

But even worse, when a story makes it way around the internet, many people believe the changed story is that’s one that’s actually true.

That’s what happened when Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban appeared on The Drew Barrymore Show to talk about a town he purchased for a friend in a time of need.  Cuban appeared on Barrymore’s daytime talk show back in March around the time his discount pharmacy Cost Plus Drugs launched. The online pharmacy sells high priced pharmaceuticals for a much lower rate than average. The episode ran last week in a rerun.

“We have about 110 drugs we sell now,” Cuban said. “That’ll go up to 2,000 by year’s end. Add it all up and some of our prices are 90-95 % lower than traditional drug pricing.”

Barrymore also asked the billionaire about a recent story that appeared in The New York Times of Cuban’s purchase of the tiny town of Mustang, Texas, a place with no population, according to census records. It’s located in central Navarro County south of Corsicana along U.S. Highway 45, across from the Corsicana Livestock Auction, according to Google Maps.

The town founded in 1973 was mostly known for being the place where workers from neighboring towns booming with oil wells, such as Corsicana, could purchase hooch from liquor stores and grind suggestively at a dance hall. Some strip clubs and adult stores showed up later until the 2000s when the place practically turned into a ghost town, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

Merwyn “Marty” Price worked in Dallas as a lawyer for 39 years and played pickup games of basketball with his friends including Cuban, according to his obituary. Price represented the town strip club’s owner Thomas Sinclair in a state district court case over the ownership of the town against the widow of the town’s founder William McKie, according to a 2006 story in the Houston Chronicle.

Price and two other owners purchased the town in 2017 from Dallas real estate agent Mike Turner for $4 million. He and his wife, Nancy, tried to put something more upscale on their small patch of Texas land, like a winery, a concert hall or a resort, but nothing seemed to work, according to a story from The New York Times.

Price was diagnosed with leukemia and died on Aug. 28, 2021. Sometime before his death, Cuban purchased the town of Mustang from him as a favor to his friend and family so they wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of keeping the small town clean and operating, even though no one lives there.

“He was close to dying, and his only real asset was this town Mustang, Texas,” Cuban said to Barrymore. “Well, I can help Marty and I could buy this town and I bought the town. It was a cool concept, right? It’s the only town in all of the state of Texas that is available for sale.”

Cuban also says he had an idea to change the name of the town from Mustang to Dinosaur after meeting business owners “Dino” Don Lessem, an author and dinosaur researcher who worked as a consultant on the first Jurassic Park movie, and his wife, Valerie Jones, on a 2021 episode of Shark Tank. Lessem and Jones pitched the “sharks” an opportunity to invest in a life-like, life-size dinosaur robotics company that became Dino Don Inc. All of the other show’s entrepreneurs/judges passed on the idea, but Cuban offered a $500,000 investment for a 10-percent return on the profits.  Cuban said on Barrymore’s show that he had plans to turn the town into a dinosaur park attraction using Lessem’s robotic dinosaur models. Thanks to the wave of internet chatter, that turned into something along the lines of “Holy crap! Mark Cuban wants to build Jurassic Park!”

“We haven’t worked it through yet, but there’s a chance we might change Mustang, Texas into Dinosaur, Texas, and just have all these big, huge Jurassic Park-like attractions.”

We asked Cuban if he still had plans to turn Mustang into another “Jurassic Park” real or otherwise, and he responded by email.

“Like I said back then, it’s unlikely,” Cuban says. “It’s not going to happen.”

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