Planet Popcorn and the Case of the Missing $400,000

The Profit episode about the popcorn business brought back memories from my years in selling businesses. Let's just say that some business sellers are less than forthcoming with the facts.

Planet Popcorn sells a variety of popcorns at fairs and farmer's markets across southern California. However, its main cash cows are two stands at Downtown Disney.  As you may have already guessed,  this is a cash business and that means a challenge for anyone interested in getting a clear picture of just how well it's doing,  as we will see.

Things get off to a shaky start for Marcus and the owner. Initially she wants to use Marcus's money to open a creperie. Marcus wants nothing to do with a new venture. When they later go to scout potential locations for a permanent popcorn store, she reveals that she is still fixated on opening a creperie.  I don't know how Marcus could have made his feelings any clearer on the subject: No freaking creperie!

Towards the end of the show Marcus discovers that she and her boyfriend had attempted to go behind his back and steal away the registration for a domain he had grabbed for the business.

But let's get back to the missing cash. At first Marcus concluded that the entire profit for 2012, $319,000, was missing. The bank account was literally empty. The owner first reacted with a deer-in-the-headlights look, followed by denial of any knowledge of what happened to it, followed by an attempt to change the subject. Marcus then brings in a forensic accountant who points out that another $80,000 is missing pushing the total to $399,000!

Once again the owner quickly cycles through a look of shock, then denial of any knowledge that money was even missing, followed by an incongruous attempt to change the topic. "Yeah well, so it's gone. Water under the bridge. Let's move on." She didn't use those exact words, but she may as well have because they say the same thing.

How can any some business owner not care about the fact that an entire year's profit of $399,000 is missing?

Well, we all know the answer to that one. Nudge-nudge-wink-wink, say no more!

Based on the fact that clean and wholesome Disney is the company's landlord, I would not be surprised to hear that Planet Popcorn had lost its concession by now. Does anyone know? The site is "down for maintenance"as I write this. (http://www.planetpopcorninc.com/)

Now here's the takeaway for business buyers, if you were talking to this business owner about buying her operation, you can rest assured that her valuation would be based on a multiple of that $400k. Working as a broker I used to get calls from owner's whose books showed that they had only made, say for sake of the example, $100K in profit while arguing that the actual profit was $200k. In other words, they were admitting to theft and tax evasion. I always declined those businesses because it's next to impossible to verify the real numbers.

This was a fun episode to watch because Marcus caught on early about who he was really dealing with.

Find out more about how Marcus plays the game of business. Could you be the next Marcus Lemonis?

Marcus Lemonis and Planet Popcorn

Who cares about the stupid $400K?!! Can't we talk about something important?

Click the image to jump to the video. CNBC doesn't allow embedding.

 

63 Responses to The Profit: Marcus and Planet Popcorn

  • Nice to know that there’s another Monty Python fan online. Can you imagine her tax returns and what would happen if she were audited? No wonder she looks so worn down with stress. And did you catch her snotty ‘tude towards her mother and daughter? I hope Disney decides to look into her business.

    • Downtown Disney immediately terminated Popcorn Planet’s lease after the airing of The Profit and they were asked to immediately leave the premises. From the state that their booth was left in after they left, it appeared as if they were escorted from Downtown Disney by security. All of the capital equipment was still inside.

  • Another psycho business owner who doesn’t care that her retard entrepreneurship and teenage-like behavior is being broadcast to the entire world.

  • Now that her theft and tax evasion have been broadcast on national television I think we can assume someone at the IRS is gonna climb up her ass with a microscope. I’d love to watch that show!

    And knowing that she was stealing all the profit, why volunteer to be on a business show?

    “I don’t know where the money went!” Then she gets in her Mercedes and drives off. lol.

    • Let’s not assume tax evasion. It sounded as if her actual profit numbers were considered real; just the cash was missing. If Planet Popcorn is a pass-through entity like an S-Corp or an LLC, the owner(s) pay on net profit at their personal rate. The receipt of actual cash is a non-taxable event. So if she paid taxes on her profit, I think the only person she’s in trouble with is her mother.

      What drove me nuts is that the missing cash had to be coded somewhere (they said there were no distributions or draws recorded on the books). Marcus and his forensic accountant must have seen it immediately, but that probably wouldn’t make good TV. Was it sitting in Undeposited Funds (a quirky Quickbooks account)? Was it in a receivable from the owner? Or the fiance? A suspense account? I feel like I was left on a cliff hanger that will never be resolved….unless I can get into Planet Popcorn’s QuickBooks!

      • @KCT Well, a quick check shows your attempt to rationalize her behavior is without any foundation. Hers is a C-Corp. Expect both the IRS and the State of California to be calling.

      • Basic Accounting. Income Statement is prepared and closed, updates Statement of Changes which is necessary to make the Balance Sheet Balance. If it doesn’t balance there is a problem. This is what forensic accountants look at. It doesn’t matter what type of entity it is. If it is funds to the owner, it has to show up somewhere.

  • First time watching the show and was shocked that the owner would behave so unprofessionally when nationally televised. Marcus said during the show that he owned both planetpopcorn.com and pop1.com and part of his proposal was establishing a website virtual store to increase profit. He’s probably waiting for her business to fail and offer to buy the name and re-establish with his ownership.

  • Everyone is espousing so eloquently about a woman who obviously has a $1k a day drug habit.

  • I, too, immediately thought she was a drug addict – definitely appeared that way to me. At the very least, strangely immature and not someone I’d want to partner with… (Someone offers to help your business with hundreds of thousands in cash buy-in and despite whether you want them to be your partner or not, you behave the way she did???)

    So yeah, my first thought was drugs (still believe it’s a factor) and then my mind went to taxes! It was a primarily cash (if not all cash) business. Whose to say – even Disney for that matter – that she wasn’t pocketing 1/3 of the cash every day? Maybe even under-reporting to Disney in addition to Uncle Sam (though I have no idea if she uses her own POS at the kiosks or a Disney system) in order to pay less commissions, too.

    Regardless – this woman can’t be too bright because while I assume she thought going on TV would be good for business, she failed to realize that disclosing theft of cash… not so much.

    Strange.

    • She may well have a drug problem–after all she said the Carnivals were her social life! BUT, again, if this was a sole proprietorship, a single-member LLC or a 1-stockholder S-Corp, there is no theft of cash! The owner is the company, so to speak. She can’t steal from herself.

      Her accountant, Casey, appeared to be booking all the sales–at least those that went through the POS–which is the only reason anyone could see that cash was missing. If she made $400k, then she would have had a big tax bill to pay (about $160k), which she may or may not have done.

      I will agree that she screwed her mother over, and she didn’t tell Marcus that she paid taxes with the missing cash (at least not on camera), but in the absence of disclosure of another member or stockholder or a business partner, calling it “theft” is simply inaccurate.

      • i believe she is a gambler & that is how she loses large sums of money, if it were just heavy drug use we would have seen more signs. i do believe her & the boyfriend were both on drugs during the taping of the show.

      • KCT, I agree with everything you said, except for the “calling it ‘theft’ is inaccurate.” Marcus asked her where the “missing” money went and she couldn’t account for it (any of the almost $400,000?) by stating that she “didn’t know.” The most likely conclusion to draw was that she took it and spent it, but clearly couldn’t recall or communicate it; or it was stolen by her lack of internal monetary controls. Either way, there is money on the books that for an investor can’t be accounted for.

        • Why is everyone assuming she didn’t know about the company’s account of balances/losses? She has Casey doctoring up the books so there is no paper trail because SHE I assuming that Marcus will simply roll over and fund her lifestyle. She knew he would ask for financials and she knew he’d find holes in the accounting. A hand-to-mouth business that’s being run like a lemonade stand should have been suspect before he cracked any financials. He saw it, the piles of cash proved it and now the IRS and State of CA will chase it. The only accountability she does admit to is borrowing money from her mom. To bad mom is afraid of her. As for her, she’ll land on her feet and screw her 30 employees who probably by now have new jobs, at lease I hope so. Sharla is most likely working the carnival circuit under a new company name where no one asks and no one tells.

      • If she used the cash to pay taxes, it should have shown up as a distribution.The forensic accountant stated that no distribution was recorded.

  • the owner’s mother is the real loser in this since she re-mortgaged her house to put $ into the business….the daughter is out for herself

  • It’s simple. She has a drug problem and that’s where the money went. Enough said!!!!!!!!!!

  • Now, I understand. This woman has a big drug problem and blew the money on drugs. I am watching a re-run at this moment.

  • I am sure the fiancé who looked as crooked as a 4 dollar bill has moved on to his next mark.

  • If you want to find that missing cash that the owner of planet popcorn took, why don’t you check up her nose!!!!!

  • I am so glad Marcus is doing what he is doing. For a fleeting second, I wish I were young again, operating a business and had his expertise and business acumen, no complaints, we did well, but he is quite a businessman.

    One suggestion: I think it would be very informative if Marcus would return about 1 year later to Planet Popcorn and to businesses he was able to help. I sure would like to know “How are they doing now?”

  • In response to KCT above, if it were a mere case of her spending all her after tax profits I don’t think that Marcus would have made such a big deal out of it. At worst he might have said something along the lines of “You spent every last dime of it?” But the fact that he decided to bring in a forensic accountant tells you something. The accountant also acted as if it was suspicious and warned Marcus not to invest.

  • ” if you were talking to this business owner about buying her operation, you can rest assured that her valuation would be based on a multiple of that …” Great lesson peter, thank you!

  • Today is August 31st, and the site is still down for ” scheduled maintenance.”

  • Concerned about my first statement, why you think to multiple it ?

  • Sharla:

    Say Good-bye.

  • did anyone also notice the “guilty” look on the accountants face?

    This guy was playing a nice guy, but it was his job to know the numbers.
    So he should know exactly where the money went.

  • Guilty look? What are you talking about? He didn’t look guilty and more importantly had no reason to feel or look guilty. He is an outside expert brought in to try to decipher where all that money disappeared to.

    • Rick, I think Sam was talking about the accountant that worked for her. He looked pretty clueless but then again so did every other employee.

  • I just checked (11/28/13) and the website is up and running . . . and using the new logo. They are also using the can idea – just in time for Christmas! Maybe they brought in Marcus to have him give them ideas, free publicity, and then p*ss him off so he would go away.
    It worked.

    • That logo would not be her property to use. Either the designer would have copyright, or Marcus if he bought it off them. More likely she came back with her tail between her legs and let Marcus do his thing. They’re still not back at Disney World, though.

  • How come no Holiday specials on your Marcus Lemonis tycoon course?

  • Thank you Greg Voss, for saying that. “Downtown Disney immediately terminated Popcorn Planet’s lease after the airing of The Profit and they were asked to immediately leave the premises.” Until I read that, and did some further checking, I found it hard to believe that this particular show did not involve an actress playing the part of an idiot and a thief. It very much surprised me that Marcus went ahead at all, as financial statement analysis should come before any investment or active involvement. It also should involve a lien to secure investments.

    Only rarely do CPAs see such large-scale Internal Revenue fraud. That the idiot let Marcus document it, and show it to the world, only shows how big an idiot she is. Yes, I know about libel and slander, but truth is an absolute defense and I doubt this idiot will have money for an attorney for long.

    • Mike, as a CPA you know that the record here is not clear. None of us has seen the financial statements as compiled, and to assume fraud without having seen the business’s books, the business tax returns, and the owner’s tax returns isn’t correct.

      We don’t even know what kind of an entity this was or is, and we know that a sole proprietorship can’t steal from itself (or a single-member LLC that has to file a schedule C). Even in the event that this was an S-Corp with one shareholder, we’ve all seen business owners bleed cash out of their business and place a “Due from Shareholder” on the books when the distributions exceed the equity. If it was a C-Corp, there may have been carry-forward losses and other reasons for there to be no tax liability, and the “missing” cash should have been coded to dividends, or otherwise accounted for.

      Of course it seems that the accounting here was sloppy. If it were done correctly there would be no “missing” cash.

      And let’s not forget this story was edited to make it more compelling on TV. As is always the case, I’m sure there is more to this story. Reality TV isn’t 100% reality.

      In the accounting field you meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and many of them aren’t any good at cash management and tax planning, which is why they employ accountants. I do believe this woman has cheated her mother–but that is a family issue and not a tax fraud issue.

      After viewing the episode, I’m sure that Disney was a little embarrassed by it. They don’t need any other reason than that to cancel her concession contract. (I believe that all Disney contracts have a rider that allows the company to cancel contracts–and employment–when Disney’s image can be tarnished by the association.)

    • Mike Block CPA – I think you’ll find Marcus on videos now talking about how he doesn’t follow the normal procedures and due diligence in order to make his reactions on the show spontaneous. He would never do those things in real life. Also, he said he chooses projects primarily because there is a lesson to be communicated.

    • He most likely put a lien on the business until his initial investment is paid back but she’s probably already operating under a different company name. He’ll never see it. If she can hide $400K then she’s not using her real SS# for the tax ID.

      He put a lien on the flower shop when he pulled out of that investment. I’m sure that SOP.

  • I came here looking for the Marcus Lemonis course. Is it the tycoon playbook thing? This is so confusing.

    • Hi Ned.
      I am sorry that you missed the Marcus Lemonis course, which is the tycoon playbook. It is in the top right box of the page where you wrote, under the heading, “Your First 100 Million.”

  • Hi Ned.
    I am sorry that you missed the Marcus Lemonis course, which is the tycoon playbook. It is in the top right box of the page where you wrote, under the heading, “Your First 100 Million.”

  • What a missed opportunity! Here she had someone with a huge record of success that was interested in partnering with her to grow her business 5X; and she fought him every step of the way. Drugs? Maybe. Gambling? Maybe. But no matter what, the bank showed a deficit and the P/L showed profit. The difference of $400,000 went somewhere. $400,000 a year is a lot of profit! It would be hard to spend that kind of money without it showing.

    I owned an HVAC contracting company of 12 full-time hourly and salaried employees for 25 years. At the end, we were only grossing $1.2 million a year. Oh what I would have given to have someone with Marcus’ history take an interest in me and my company, put skin in the game, and take the company to levels that I could only dream about. On my own, I feared taking the kind of calculated risks that REALLY successful people take. I grew the company over the 25 years, but never reached the potential that it was capable of. But at least, I had integrity.

    When I sold the company, due diligence was done by the prospective buyer. It was a matter of pride that everything balanced to the penny; nothing was under the table. I still remain a friend of the new owners and their company.

  • I wonder why you guys don’t consider the other side of the story: She had a profit of $400k and thus – assuming the took the cash out of her business – didn’t actually need Marcus’ investment. She already has a highly profitable business and was looking into expanding into crepes. Another implication of this (assuming she took the cash out intentionally) would be that she basically took away money from her mother and covered it up through the story of an ‘unprofitable business’, maybe to justify it againt her mother.

    • I agree to some extent. Her vision for the company involved opening a Crepe shop in her own neighborhood. That was perhaps her dream. She had a need to have that kind of interaction with people – she didn’t want to give up the unprofitable carnival business. So, turning Planet Popcorn into a national brand may not have been anything SHE was interested in. She could’ve called it quits at that.

      However, this begs the question of why she called Marcus in the first place? And why all of the devious stuff with the really guilty looking boyfriend? She seemed to be lying right and left and had hidden agendas. They were up to something that much is clear. They indeed had no integrity and were behaving in a sleazy and underhanded way.

  • After re-watching the Planet Popcorn episode, I looked up the company. Apparently, Sharla has a new popcorn & crepe shop in Newport Beach. Sharla accuses CNBC of editing the show to make her seem inept and dishonest. She claims that the story is 99% false. She wrote a statement on 12/15/2013. You can look up her up at the website Manta. I found her statements to be interesting.

  • Nothing to be found by Sharla.

    If anyone likes the crazies don’t miss Nancy Pappas in the Worldwide Trailers segment.

  • KMT: you go to the Manta website and enter Planet Popcorn and you will see a statement written on 12/15/13 by Sharla McBride. I double checked and re-read it. Apparently, her creperie business is flourishing.

  • It is difficult to believe that the show accepted Popcorn Planet
    For one of their shows without looking at the financial statements
    Ahead of time. My guess is they knew there was a problem and used
    This to demonstrate that people lie.

    In my 30 years in the accounting and tax business I know
    That when the financials don’t agree with the bank the difference is the owner taking out money.

  • The mom should just take her money back by taking as many of those unmonitored stacks sitting around as it takes to pay off her mortgage. Then she should tell her daughter to f&#! off, cut ties to her, and enjoy what’s left of her retirement. 😈

  • Just visited http://www.planetpopcorn.com and Sharla is apparently using the Planet Popcorn logo created by Marcus! That’s interesting. Any idea why he would let that happen or why she would use it after complaining so much in that episode? Weird.

    • Did he copyright it? She snuffed it out in the meeting telling him that she is not budging on her logo. If it’s not registered it’s free game.

      • The designers of the logo hold the copyright, unless their contract for work specifies that the customer owns it. I’m of the belief that Marcus independently contracted the logo redesign so he could hold ownership, to do otherwise would be plain stupid.

  • some children [not all] do not care what happens to thier parents after the money is gone. let the state take care of them. some of my money is gone because i wanted to help a g-son and now it’s Gramma Who. i ‘ll never see the money. how sad.

  • I feel so Sorry for Momma, and talk about arrogance…….substance abuse…… and that is being Nice…….. 👿 😈 ➡ 😥

  • I would hate to think of what Marcus lost lost on that deal,considering that she was only in it for herself only. Her mother probably even lost her house. What a waste form someone so selfish.

  • Isn’t it amazing (finally saw a repeat of the episode last night) that their website seems to not only have the logo she didn’t like, but pretty much represents all the improvements Marcus was trying to implement. I actually felt sorry for Sharla. IMHO, Steve was the real enemy here. It is fairly obvious from his early comments to the sly grin on his face at the end, that he is the one responsible for the lost money. He was scared of Marcus from the beginning because he was scared of being discovered. I kept waiting for Marcus to realize that and confront him. Why did Sheila change her mind after giving Marcus permission with the books? I am sure it was Steve who manipulated her for fear of being found out. It is the greatest challenge of talented people to find honest partners and friends who can help guide them through the world they don’t know. In this case Sheila was great at what she did know – fairs and concessions and making popcorn. She needed people around her who know the other side – like the bookkeeper. But Steve is manipulating her, propping her up, and guiding her into believing she doesn’t need a “billionaire’s” help.

  • Did Marcus’ deal with Sharla (aired at the end of the ASL Signs episode on 12/2/14) result in an explanation of the missing money and did he specifically exclude Sharla’s boyfriend from any Planet Popcorn activities unless he had a financial interest in the company? It will be interesting t ofind out why he changed his mind about Sharla unless he got an explanation for the missing money.

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