The Business Nation Project

He sold top business minds on a TV show that promised to save the world – and make them famous. They handed over thousands. Then reality set in. The producers had to cancel in the face of financial ruin. More than ten years later, they are still trying to figure out how and why they failed.

In 1991, the executives of a business network who had agreed to serve as consultants for a TV show about business in the afterlife appeared on CBS. For 10 days, they were filmed interviewing and interviewing top-level business minds around the world. The show was called Business Nation and was produced by American Enterprise Institute.

The show promised to “bring the minds of the best minds in business and government together to explore, in depth, their perspectives on the most pressing issues confronting the United States and the world.” Among the celebrities who would be interviewed were Henry Kissinger (former secretary of state), David Rockefeller (chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank), Donald Rumsfeld (former secretary of defense), Arnold Schwarzenegger (former governor of California), Henry Kissinger (former secretary of state and former U.S. ambassador to China), and more.

What do you do when you have millions to spend on people you don’t know and whom you cannot influence? You get involved with the show. And this is exactly what happened with the executives involved with the production of the Business Nation series.

A team led by Robert DeFilippes, an entrepreneur, investor and former executive with a major accounting software company, came up with the idea of interviewing top executives – to be named later – for the reality television show Business Nation. To get the interview, DeFilippes and the Business Nation team had to agree to spend millions of dollars on a show for the U.S. government and other organizations. They were committed to the project, DeFilippes insisted repeatedly. DeFilippes said he paid between $5-6 million for the interviews.

The Business Nation team made its pitch to CBS and the U.S. government. The executives gave them $4 million, which they used to pay the salary to DeFilippes’ top team members. They also paid for the use of a private jet to fly the executives all around the world for interviews.

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