When Fort Worth's Clint Robertson learned that he would be a contestant on The Apprentice, the 40-year-old Castleberry High School graduate had a viewing party for the season premiere at a local Movie Tavern. He was surprised to see who showed up.
"We filled up two small theaters, and the smaller one overflowed," Robertson says. "A big part of that crowd was old schoolteachers from Castleberry. There were a ton of Castleberry students, people I'd gone to school with that I hadn't seen in 20 years or 25 years.... I wouldn't have expected it, but there were a lot of folks who remembered and were really happy to see me on it."
Robertson fever grew at Castleberry as Robertson did well on the show, making it all the way to the finale. He ultimately came in second, but Castleberry is treating him like a winner with a Clint Robertson Fan Appreciation Night on Thursday at the school.
Robertson, who was valedictorian when he was at Castleberry, says he'll give a talk and do a Q&A session, then mingle with fans. He says his entrepreneurial spirit had already begun when he was in high school. He credits that to his parents, who ran several local Dairy Queen restaurants, and especially to his father, who also went to Castleberry. He admired the independence that his father had, but he still had to find his own way.
Much of that pathfinding was at local universities. Robertson initially studied pre-med at TCU, but about the time he was applying for medical schools, he switched gears and went for an accounting degree because he foresaw difficulties in the healthcare industry and he wanted to be his own boss. His father told him that being a CPA and an attorney was a good combination, so he enrolled in law school at SMU and passed the CPA exam while studying for his law degree. He put his combined background to work in all sorts of ways, trying to start a restaurant, working in a law firm, managing the holdings of Weatherford-based American Country Countdown host Bob Kingsley, opening a real-estate office, owning two construction firms.
Then the subprime crisis hit, investors started backing out, and he found himself doing whatever he could to pay back debts and keep his credit rating intact, even if it meant selling the family home -- Robertson is married with three boys -- and living as cheaply as possible in rented properties.
A devout Christian, Robertson says he believes that God intervened by leading him to The Apprentice. When he and his wife saw an announcement for a casting call, he decided to apply and was picked for last fall's season, which sought contestants who were struggling in the down economy. But despite many indications that Robertson should win, Donald Trump eventually chose Brandy Kuentzel as the new Apprentice. Robertson went through a period of dejection, but it was brief.
"I made it back to that little room that they had us in in New York and took out my iPad, and started scrolling," he says. "Between every comment on Facebook, there was an e-mail from a corporation that you would recognize, and a lot that you wouldn't: [saying] 'We'd love to talk to you tomorrow. We know you've got a lot of offers.' I'm still negotiating with several of these folks."
Robertson is already working with Gold Rush America, a gold-buying business, and Cenegenics Medical Institute, a Dallas-based weight-loss and fitness center, working on his own fitness program with the additional goal of being the face of the institute in an endorsement deal. He says he remains an admirer of Donald Trump and would welcome the chance to work for his organization, but he also believes that by not selecting him, Trump missed an opportunity -- not the other way around.
"When I look around at where I am today, had people thought that I was actually hired by Mr. Trump for a year -- No. 1, in a year's time my name wouldn't have been nearly as hot as it is now," Robertson says. "No. 2, people currently wouldn't be sending me anything, because they'd have thought I was working for him. And No. 3, if it hadn't gotten down the way it had, there wouldn't have been this huge outcry on [the Internet, where sentiment was overwhelmingly in Robertson's favor]. So I've got a pretty good brand right now."
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872