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Everyone's Favorite "Shark Tank" Investor Is Not As Sweet As We All Thought

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Coming from humble beginnings, everyone always had a soft-spot for Robert Herjavec's polite nature.

Before he found success, Robert didn't always know what he wanted to do. At the age of 21, he was lost, like many other in that age bracket.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was a bit of a mess, partying, hanging out," he said. "People would say, 'What do you want to do with your life?' I'd go, 'Ah, it doesn't matter.'"

In his youth he did a lot of odd jobs such as delivering newspapers and waiting tables. That's when his father pulled him aside and gave him the drive he needed to succeed.

"My dad sits down with me, and he says 'I went through hell so that you could have the opportunity I never had,'" he said.

His father originally lived in Croatia, formerly Yugoslavia, where he was persecuted for speaking out against Communism.

"My dad was thrown in jail 23 times," Robert admitted.

When Robert was 8-years-old, his dad escaped from jail and rushed the entire family to Canada, where they arrived with only $20 and a suitcase.

"My dad was a factory worker. When we came here, he worked in a factory and swept floors," Herjavec said. "People made fun of him, because he wasn't American. They called him all kinds of names, and it hurt him deeply."

To get to work, Robert's father would walk two miles each way in order to save bus fair. At times Robert was embarrassed of his dad and his family's poverty.

"He was poor, he was rough around the edges and I just didn't want to be like that," Robert admits. "When I was growing up, I was really embarrassed of him."

But that conversation they had when he was 21, really lit a fire under him to do something great.

"Now, I realize the sacrifice that he went through, in order to give me this opportunity," he said. "I had this incredible sense of desperation that if I didn't do something with my life, all the sacrifice wasn't worth it."

Robert's estimated net worth is a whopping $200 million. First beginning his career as a film producer and director, he later founded his first company, BRAK System, an internet security software. Robert later sold the company for $30.2 million in 2000.

Robert then left work to be a stay-at-home dad for three years, and ended up founding the Herjavec Group in 2003. He still remains CEO of the company, which provides security solutions.

It comes as no surprise that Robert has also made millions through his appearance on Shark Tank, through investing in businesses pitched on the show. He has also authored two successful books.

No amount of money, however, can mend a broken heart.

His Marriage Fell Apart

Robert and Diane Plese married in 1990, after claiming love at first sight. Robert was just 26-years-old, while Diane was working as an optometrist. As proud children of Croatian immigrants, the couple married at a Croatian church in Ontario, Canada.

The couple went on to have three children; daughters, Caprice and Skye and son, Brendan.

After 24 years of marriage the couple split.

"'I wish nothing but love and peace for our family as we move forward from this," he said.

How He Contemplated Suicide

Late one night after Robert and his wife filed for separation, the businessman stood on the balcony of his Toronto hotel room contemplating whether or not to end his life.

“I just wanted to end it,” Herjavec said.

This is when he considered himself to hit rock bottom.

“It’s been a terribly difficult year,” he adds. “We were great parents and a great team, but over time we drifted apart.”

The couple's three high school and college age kids initially refused to speak to their father after the split.

“Everyone has their kryptonite,” Herjavec says. “For me, it was my kids. It took me to a place I never thought I would go.”

That's when he reached out to his pastor, John McAuley for advice. He steered him to Seatte's Union Gospel Mission, a shelter that provides emergency care and long-term recovery services for the homeless. Arriving in Seattle the following day, he walked into the shelter and was promptly put to work in the soup kitchen.

“Nobody knew who I was,” he says. “People thought I was a recovering addict.”

The pain of his own life was quickly overshadowed by the suffering he witnesses from the men and women in the shelter.

That's when he was inspired to take it one step further.

He went to a local Walmart and bought all the socks they had in their inventory to hand out to people on the streets.  “I think I’ve donated around 100,000 pairs,” he says.

“I always used to think that if you are compassionate, you are weak,” Herjavec says. “You see that on our show.”

After two-and-a-half weeks, Herjavec left the streets of Seattle humbled by the experience he just endured. Desperate for a new way to get his mind off the pain caused by his split, when he was offered a spot on Dancing With The Stars, he jumped at the chance- and that would change his life.

“I was hollow and broken,” says Herjavec, who still volunteers at the Seattle shelter whenever he can and helps support it financially. “And these people saved my life.”

Moving On

Robert first got hooked on Dancing With The Stars when his mother was in the hospital battling the ovarian cancer that would claim her life in 2007.

He threw himself completely into the exercise, practicing eight hours a day with his partner Kym Johnson.

“I went into this really petrified,” he says. “But now I’m thinking, ‘I got this.’ But we’ll see.”

That's when rumors started flying that he and Kym were dating.

“The entire cast and crew of Dancing with the Stars is evolving into an extended family and is incredibly supportive. Kym has become a great friend, and it is so much fun to be able to share this experience with her.”

The pair finished in eighth place during the 20th season of the show, with Kym admitting that it was Robert's enthusiasm that got them to the latter stages of the competition.

"Robert hadn’t had any dancing experience,' she said. 'He’s a businessman and he just embraced it – it was a great season," she said.

Trouble On The Dating Scene

Once rumor of Robert and Kym being an item was confirmed, ex-girlfriend Danielle Vasinova had a warning about the businessman's approach to romance.

The 32-year-old actress said she was devastated when their bitter breakup changed her life as Robert stopped all communication with her, and she was forced to move out of an apartment he had been renting for her.

"I don't think any person should be treated the way I have been, it's mean and cruel," Danielle said.

She claimed that his appearance on the show Shark Tank was fitting for his personality.

"I feel like a piece of meat he chewed up and spat," she said.

This didn't stop Robert and Kym from having the happily ever after they had been dreaming about.

"When I met Kym, I felt complete. I'm so excited about everything we have to look forward to," Herjavec told PEOPLE.

Finding Love Again

“I’m learning something new about her every day,” says Herjavec. “She’s starting a business right now, and I can’t believe how committed she is and how hard working she is. I always knew she was, but it’s scary to go into a different field you haven’t gone before. She’s approaching it with the same level of enthusiasm and courage that she’s done her whole life. I find that very motivating. I find that so impressive about her.”

Robert and Kym, who is opening her own dance studio in Los Angeles, got engaged in February 2015 and tied the knot in July 2016.

"I never thought I'd get married again," Robert said. "I worried I'd become bitter or an old cat guy. But at the end of the day everybody wants to connect to another human being. When I met Kym, it was just effortless."

Robert has learned to refrain from giving his professional opinions on his new wife's business.

“I have to be completely honest with you, I really have to control myself,” he admits. “I’m a great guy to spend dinner with when you’re starting a business, but to live with it can be a little hard. I’m constantly listening to her with one ear and resisting the temptation to jump in and take over everything.”

Hungry Harvest

He adds, “I’m trying not to treat her like a pitcher in the Shark Tank. But we always tell our entrepreneurs, ‘Mistakes are simply guide posts on the way to doing it correctly.’ Any mistake you do that doesn’t lose you a lot of money or doesn’t kill you is not a bad mistake.”

People

“I kind of like to plan everything and then just spring it on her,” he admits. “We’re having a great time. It feels like we’ve been married forever.”

What do you think of the "Shark" now that you know what his personal life has been like?

Source: People / People / Daily Mail / Closer Weekly / CNBC

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