Swanson’s Fish Market: The Profit, Problems, and The Truth?January 24, 2016 | By: Sean Murray
With so many of the businesses featured on The Profit using merchant cash advances, one has to wonder if Marcus Lemonis is specifically targeting them for the show.
In episode 11 of Season 2, Swanson’s Fish Market in Fairfield, Connecticut is on the fritz, so much so that the employees are fronting their own cash to pay the business’s vendors, all while foregoing paychecks. The business is generating $150,000 a month in revenue according to the co-owner Gary Swanson. Net of all operating expenses, the business is supposedly making at least $50,000 a month. But that money is nowhere to be found and Swanson said that’s because they owe vendors, construction bills and other people.
But even with these debts, their precarious position is suspicious, especially given their fantastic margins.
Not mentioned is the fact that they obtained a merchant cash advance in February 2013, according to the Connecticut Secretary of State, about 18 months before the show started filming.
Gary’s wife Sue says that things are so bad that they are behind on their home mortgage and her phone keeps getting disconnected for non-payment.
Lemonis is still attracted to the business given its loyal customer base and allure of $50,000 a month in operating profits, and tries once and for all to find out how it could be in dire financial straits.
Eventually some of it becomes clear. The business is $900,000 in debt and partially because its being used to pay for the owners’ family expenses, such as a car lease on Sue’s BMW, remodeling on their home, and docking fees for their boat. Lemonis tells them they have to give up their life of luxury if they are to change course especially since employees are not even getting paid. The owners reject the advice and Lemonis tells them he no longer wants to invest in their business.
As an alternative he offers to buy their building and lease the space back to them, at a price that would allow the Swansons to pay off all of their debts. After agreeing on the terms of that deal, Lemonis finds out that the building is actually in foreclosure and on the verge of being repossessed by the bank.
The episode ends with no deal and with the Swansons blaming Lemonis for not having done a lien search prior to filming. The storyline was so damaging to Swanson’s Fish Market however, that the owners’ daughter, Larissa, published a tell-all exposé on the business’s website.
According to Larissa, the show is staged. Apparently, when Lemonis cuts a check, its only done for the camera.
“When we sat down to do the deal they told us before hand that if he writes us a check, it was only for show purposes and we would have to hand it right back,” Larissa wrote. “He also stated that he put the money in an escrow account but that never happened.”
— CNBC's The Profit (@TheProfitCNBC) October 24, 2014
The luxurious boat which was described as a yacht on the show was also not what it seemed. “Marcus knew about the boat after the 2nd day of filming,” Larissa wrote. Their story-line producer was there for three straight days during the filming and asked my mom to bring my dad outside and confront him about it; the entire thing was staged, but the executive producer Amber told me later on the phone that night not to worry about us looking bad because they were going to ‘tie a nice bow on it at the end.'”
And some of the business debt was apparently medical debt. “We are constantly in and out of hospitals and have paid over 100K in medical bills including hospital, ambulances and medications,” Larissa explained.
“Hospital” is of course one of the most commonly used words among people that default on their obligations, according to a study.
Needless to say, there are some interesting details that Larissa reveals in her plea about the storyline shown on The Profit that will make you think twice about the show, especially her claim that says the businesses are contractually bound not to speak about the production of it, else they pay a penalty of $1 million.
However, the facts may be on Lemonis’ side. During the filming of the show, the Swansons were sued by Kaz Mortgage on September 18th, 2014 and the Swansons defaulted after failing to obey the court’s orders to appear multiple times.
Two weeks later, the Swansons were sued for non-payment of municipal taxes stretching back multiple years in the amount of $19,796.84. That case is still being actively litigated.
And two weeks after that, the Swansons were sued by Val’s Ocean Pacific Sea Food Inc. for $47,283.25. The Swanson’s failed to appear and the court ordered a judgment against them.
In May, 2015, the Town of Fairfield filed a lien against Swanson’s Fish Market.
In December, 2015, the Swansons were sued for $1,051.22 for failure to pay their water bill.
The Swansons are also being sued by:
- Plymouth Park Tax Services, LLC
- James Sorensen
- B & P Minami, LLC
- Wells Fargo Bank
The City of Bridgeport has also filed multiple liens on GJ Swanson LLC.
Despite it all, Swanson’s Fish Market is still open for business. And Larissa Swanson claimed on facebook that the money Lemonis supposedly puts up on the show isn’t even his, it’s the network’s.
While the bulk of the legal problems that Swanson’s Fish Market is facing today entered the public record during or after filming of the show, fans have speculated that there was no way Lemonis didn’t know the business’s state in advance, leaving many to conclude that perhaps the entire episode really was a reality TV stunt, one which has unfortunately turned Swanson’s Fish Market into one of America’s most hated small businesses. Larissa Swanson claims that the family regularly receives death threats because of how they were portrayed.
As for the merchant cash advance they obtained, the UCC has not yet been terminated so it’s possible that it has been renewed.
Their facebook page shows no hints that anything is wrong. They have 3,756 likes and their most recent post is showing off their shrimp, crab, and fish:
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, a 10-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.