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PHS grad says 'no' to TV 'sharks'

Paul Watts, a Phoenix High School graduate who got a shot Sunday night with the big investors of ABC's "Shark Tank," said he has no regrets after walking away from an offer of $350,000 for 75 percent of his Sacramento-based graffiti-removal business.

"They wanted to own and run the business and they know nothing about it," Watts said after the show.

Watts simply said "no" to the panel of five investors, all of whom have made many millions in business — and stand ready to invest in good opportunities in the reality TV show.

"There's no no!" responded panelist Kevin O'Leary.

The show, produced by Mark Burnett of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice," gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to convince the five multi-millionaire tycoons to part with their own hard-earned cash and provide funding to jumpstart the ideas.

On Sunday night, the panel members told Watts he was a "good guy" but his business, which uses trucks, hoses, pumps and chemicals that anyone can get, was overvalued.

Watts, who said negotiations went on for 45 minutes, most of it not aired, told the two investors who remained interested — O'Leary and Robert Herjavec — that their offer was a "shark deal." Herjavec predicted that Watts was "going to get run over" in the hard world of business.

Watts started negotiations at $350,000 for 15 percent of the deal and said later he was willing to negotiate.

When Watts spurned their offer and prepared to leave, O'Leary said, "You are dead to me if you turn around. Opportunity knocked and there was no one home. ... Turn around and get out of here."

In an interview Monday, Watts said, "It went well for me. They underestimated me and the potential the business has. They thought they could steamroll over me."

The value of his company, which Watts wanted capital to franchise, was demonstrated by the panel's willingness to buy 75 percent of it, said Watts.

Exposure from the show will give his firm, Graffiti Removal Services, an "invaluable" boost, which Watts had already seen in the 75 e-mails from prospective franchisees that he'd received Monday after the broadcast, he said.

Most people would snap up the six-figure offer for a three-quarter interest in the enterprise — which has only one full-time employee, himself, and no franchisees as yet — but Watts said, "The company is making money and their offer wasn't enough to make me walk from the company.

"I'm the visionary and they're just people who saw dollar signs."

Watts said the panel of investors missed the potential value of his service because they're oriented to invest in inventions and "widgets."

"They understood I was experienced and that I wasn't going to be pushed around. It was an ego battle for them. They want to make a lot of money. I want to be comfortable enough. I'm a boy from Medford and I don't need a trillion dollars to be happy. They do.

"There's a vision to the company and they weren't going to develop it."

Watts's four-year-old firm has been winning contracts with surrounding towns such as Galt, Rancho Cordova and Woodland. The company's mobile service can match paint and cover "tagging," blasting it off with environmentally friendly solutions and covering walls with wax that makes future removals easy.

Watts said his partners — his brother, Brent, and Chris Gallego, PHS graduates and teachers in Medford — "agreed with what I did.

"If I'd let the company go, I would never hear the end of it."

Watts said the show's producers told him to keep them informed on the company's progress. Watts added that he'd be willing to meet the panel for a do-over, but said O'Leary's pride likely would stand in the way.

"He's controlling ... and they lost a huge opportunity," he said. "Too bad for them."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.