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A&E’s ‘Rooster & Butch’ talk cutting deals the old-fashioned way

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A&E’s ‘Rooster & Butch’ talk cutting deals the old-fashioned way (Photo courtesy of A&E Network)

On A&E’s new reality series “Rooster & Butch,” self-made millionaires Mike “Rooster” McConaughey and Wayne “Butch” Gilliam invite hopeful entrepreneurs to pitch investment ideas. The duo may decide to invest or they might instead offer helpful business advice – but only after they get to know the pitcher.

They consider it doing business by the golden rule. For “Rooster & Butch,” integrity comes first, idea comes second.

“Some people have lost that,” Gilliam told me during an interview with the pair. “It’s one of the fundamentals of life. When you give somebody your word and make them a promise, you look them in the eye and shake their hand. That should be considered documentation enough for anything. It should mean something.”

The West Texas-based duo accumulated wealth in the oil and cattle industries, with “Rooster” McConaughey (brother of actor Matthew) making his first million before the age of 30.

“Then I lost it all in about two days,” McConaughey recalled. “There was a big boom out here and a bunch of us here made some pretty good money and then the crash hit (in the 1980s). Oil dropped down to nothing overnight. If you hadn’t built your foundation you were in trouble. A lot of us went under.”

Going from riches to rags in mere hours ruined some people, but McConaughey says he decided to go back to his roots and start again from scratch.

“I had labored since I was a little kid. When I went broke, I had a lot of nice clothes and a gold necklace of a rooster with a diamond in his eye, and I sent it all to my brother, Pat. I said ‘You can have all this nice stuff. I’m done.’ I went back to manual labor and started all over.”

But he didn’t do it by himself. McConaughey remembers many familiar faces that that showed up to help him get back on his feet. One of those people was his current business partner.

“Butch was one of them. I had competitors come to me and tell me they wanted me back in the game. They liked my personality and they liked the way I do business. That’s when I realized that you’ve got to build a foundation and take your time so they can’t take it away from you so easy.”

While the pair certainly like to have a good time on “Rooster & Butch,” they stress that their big takeaway for viewers is to do business with a conscience.

“Let your conscience be your guide,” McConaughey said. “People still have consciences, they just need to find them.”

“Look at Enron. Look at Bernie Madoff,” Gilliam added. “I’ve got more respect for a guy who kicks down my door with a mask on his face and a pistol in his hand. At least I know what he’s going to do with me. Some of these people come to you as a friend, with a briefcase and a nice suit or a dress on, but they’re really robbing you blind. We have to get back to the basics of integrity and honesty.”

One of the highlights of “Rooster & Butch” is watching the duo interact with 77-year-old Gil Prather (AKA: “the old man kid”).

A veteran of the cattle, ranching and construction industries, Prather is also an Americana Hall of Fame singer/songwriter and the subject of the upcoming documentary “The Man from the Rio Grande.” 

One of this season’s episodes of “Rooster & Butch” features what the duo calls the craziest pitch they’ve ever heard. “The ghost pod!” Rooster laughed when I asked him about it.

“It’s a ‘ghost-detector’ that looks like a backup light that fell off of a tractor,” Gilliam explained. “It’s called the ‘Outer Realm Pod.’ This guy claims it detects ghost and spirits. We didn’t believe it was real until it started going off every time Gil walked past it. It must work because Gil’s so old, he’s close to being a ghost anyways.”

The pair says they’re glad they ignored warnings about doing business with millennials.

“We heard a lot of negative stuff about millennials that turned out to be completely wrong,” McConaughey said. “They’re trainable. A lot of these young guys have the energy that we had when we were younger.”

According to Gilliam, the message is more important than the money for McConaughey and himself.

“We’re trying to get these young people to do things the right way, even if we don’t end up doing deals with them,” he said.

(“Rooster & Butch” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on A&E.)

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