CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Lance Armstrong Speaks with CNBC‘s Andrew Ross Sorkin
WHEN: Interview airing today, Thursday, December 6, 2018
WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Lance Armstrong and CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F 6AM – 9AM) today, Thursday, December 6th. The following are links to video from the interview on CNBC.com:
Lance Armstrong on escaping a $100 million lawsuit and Uber
Lance Armstrong speaks out on his drug scandal, Phil Knight and Thom Weisel
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON LYING:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I think if you polled the world, the first issue, doping in the sport of cycling, at that generation, I think most people now have enough history and enough knowledge to know that, gosh, it looked like– it looked like everybody did it. That isn’t the issue for people. The issue is how I so aggressively defended myself, being litigious, going after people. That’s the thing.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Lying.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Well, yeah. But we all lied. I mean, in no point were you just gonna say, “Oh, you know what? I’m, kind of, sick of lying. I’m gonna tell you the truth.” But, of course there were lies. But even then, people– this notion or this idea of bullying is a terrible. Look, I mean, I say it all the time. I mean, if I saw my– if– when I watch old clips, because I get to watch them either through lawsuits or just whatever– the way I acted, if I saw one of my children act that way, I mean, it would be– it would be a very rough conversation.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON DONALD TRUMP:
ANDRW ROSS SORKIN: Donald Trump before he was president, I don’t know if you saw this, the night after or the morning after wrote, “Lance Armstrong did himself great harm last night. Lawsuits and failure will follow him.” Did you see that?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I did see it. Yeah.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: What did you think when you saw that?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Well, listen, you have to remember. I mean, this is six years ago. So he was just– Donald Trump was just a loudmouth, you know, out trying to get attention. And that was in a sea of– there were– I don’t think there were millions of those, but there were tens of thousands of those. And so he was just another person. Now he’s our president– somehow. And, whatever. I mean, he– he’s– he’s right. He’s half right. “He’s gonna cost himself a lot of money.” Right? We know that happened. So he got– he got—and, “a lifetime of failure.” Well– I don’t know who judges people’s lifetimes, whether or not they’re failures or successes or just okay. But I don’t feel like a failure. And I’ve never felt like a failure since then. And so– but yes, I read that at the time. And he was half right. He got a 50.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON TRUST / NEXT VENTŪRES:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: There’s been people that we ask for a meeting and they just don’t answer. So you have to assume that’s what they’re thinking. Right? “I don’t want this association. I can’t trust this guy.” And by the way, fair play. I understand. I’m not gonna be upset or bitter about that. You have every right. And quite frankly, maybe you should feel that way.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: What do you think you now need to do to prove yourself as an investor?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Look– I believe that we’re uniquely positioned because we get early looks at things– we will not be fooled on the product side. I just don’t believe that anybody at NEXT VENTŪRES will be fooled. Because it– this is our world, and it’s not as if we can– we have to guess, right? If it’s any product, we test it. We make sure that it works. So, you have– to us, there’s really three things: there’s the product side, which would– we think we’ll bat a thousand on, there’s the people side, which we like to think that we can pick good people, and people that can lead great companies, and then there’s the story, right, it’s how they tell their story; whether it’s through their own marketing, their own branding, their own packaging. That can easily be fixed, right? That’s the easiest of the three. The people, a little tougher to fix. The product, if it sucks, then we can’t start.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Is there any product you think you missed? Meaning, a business where you looked– looked at it in your space and thought, “I don’t think that’s gonna work?” And then, a year or two later said, “Man, it– that worked way better than I expected?”
LANCE ARMSTRONG: — If the founder of Peloton came to me five years ago with that idea, I probably would’ve said, “Buddy, you’re crazy.”
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Peloton? You didn’t think that was gonna work?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Well, I mean, I– I didn’t– I– I never really thought about it, but– if I put myself in that position five years ago, I– I would’ve thought, “Boy, I don’t know.” I mean, partly because I– I can’t see myself doing that. Like, I couldn’t see myself– I don’t think I’m their target consumer but– or customer. But I probably would’ve passed.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON NIKE:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Whether or not I would do it all over again, what I would rather do is go back and win seven in a row against everybody else that’s drinking water and eating bread. That’s what I would want. And I believe that that would happen. And so that isn’t what– that isn’t what got me to this place.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Even if I did all that and I was a gentleman and I had class and I had dignity and I treated people with respect, they would’ve let me off. Nobody would’ve come after me. It was easy.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: You know, in your book, you talk about how EPO saved your life. And I was always curious if you ever thought about the irony of the fact that EPO saved your life, but also may have been, at least professionally, your undoing.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Right. I insist it was– it was the way I acted. That was my undoing.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Do you think there’s a double standard between the way you have been treated and the way other athletes have been treated and accepted back into their sport and and society? I’m thinking of A-Rod–
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Yeah.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: –for example.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I know who you’re thinking about. I think about it all the time. I do think there’s a double standard. But– but I’m okay with it. A-Rod didn’t– A-Rod didn’t raise half a billion dollars and try to save a bunch of people’s lives. I mean, that’s, kind of, the irony in this. But, A-Rod was a baseball player. And so the– this story and what I’m getting at is this story meant so much more to every– to society. Right? And look, it’s great when somebody hits homeruns and you know, maybe does an event here and there for the Girls and Boys Club. But this story held a place in people’s hearts and minds that was way beyond those guys.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: What about the sponsors? So one of the things that I’ve been fascinated by is Nike stood by Tiger Woods through his own problems. Different problems. Nike did not stand by you.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Right. Because I had a lifetime ban. If what happened to Tiger the next day, they said, “Hey, buddy. I’m sorry, but we’re taking all the golf clubs. You can never hit a ball every again on TV, in a tournament, ever.” They would not have stood by him. I promise you.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Philip Knight, founder of Nike, was a great defender of Lance Armstrong. Did you ever have a conversation with him after all this happened about this?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: So Phil’s been, interesting. He’s been a great friend. And I have no association with Nike. I don’t wear the product, ever, I mean. But Phil has maintained — he’s continued to be a great friend. I see him every year. We have lunch when I see him. We don’t necessarily talk about this. I mean, I think he has his views on it. And at that point, it didn’t really matter what– I mean, Phil is the founder of Nike and the – really the spirit behind it. But if Mark Parker, the CEO and the CMO and all the– you know, the board says, “He’s out,” it doesn’t matter what Phil thinks.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON THOM WEISEL:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Thom’s an interesting guy. And I’m not here to tell on people or throw them under the bus. But yeah, Thom hasn’t been honest.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Was he complicit–
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Of course.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: –in this?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: We’ll leave it at that. He just wasn’t– he wasn’t– he hasn’t been honest with the press. He wasn’t honest in his deposition in the postal case. He’s just not– he’s just not honest. But—
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: How many other people do you put in that category?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Very few. Very few. He– he’s, kind of, the yellow jersey when it comes to this.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON USPS:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: I didn’t think I got off scot-free because the settlement with them for five was probably the tenth settlement. You know, there was– there were all of these cases and the team, unbeknownst to me, had insured most of my pay and most of my bonuses. I knew about one of the insurance companies. But then they just started coming in. It was like, “Who are you?” So net/net, I mean, when you– like, this is gonna shock you. But, you know, once you total up all of it. So loss of guaranteed income, legal fees and settlements, it came to 111 million bucks. So, you know, I didn’t feel like I got off easy.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ON UBER:
LANCE ARMSTRONG: When I met Chris Sacca, he was– I believe he was at either Google or Twitter. And, you know– you know Sacca’s personality. Larger than life and we were having fun and we kept in touch. And then some years later, probably around ’08 or ’09, he left to start his own venture capital fund called Lowercase Capital. And he called me and said, “Looking for investors. Would you invest?” And I’m thinking to myself, “This guy has a huge personality, but he’s also very smart and very well-connected. Why not?” So I invested in Chris Sacca. I didn’t even know that he did Uber. I thought he was buying up a bunch of Twitter shares from employees or former employees and the biggest investment in Lowercase fund one was Uber.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: How w–
LANCE ARMSTRONG: At a valuation of 3.7 million.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: How much money did you give him?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: 100,000 bucks.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: How much is that—
LANCE ARMSTRONG: It’s—
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: –100,000 worth today?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: It’s a lot more.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: What are we talking? Ballpark.
LANCE ARMSTRONG: No. No. I mean, it’s too good to be true.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Ten, 20, 30, 40, $50 million?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: It’s one of those. It’s a lot. It’s a lot. It’s saved our family.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: So today, how much do you follow the travails or success, depending on the day, of Uber?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Very closely. Very, very closely.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Do you know Travis Kalanick?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: A little bit. Actually, Chris Sacca brought him to one of the tours.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: What did you think when he was ousted?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: God. It’s easy to say, because in hindsight, I think Dara’s done a great job. And, you know, what they’re poised to do is pretty impressive. I can’t like that. Right? I mean, I was that guy. That’s– Travis and Uber is Lance and Livestrong. Right? Is there not some hybrid solution here? You’re out of control. Timeout. But, again, in hindsight, they haven’t missed a beat. And so, I actually worry about Travis. I mean, I’ll email him sometimes, you know, because he’ll say things and I’m like, “Dude, I’ve seen this movie. It’s got a real s*** ending.” And so– of course, his ending has a lot of zeros on it. But, no, you can’t question their decision now.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: But you saw yourself in him?
LANCE ARMSTRONG: Yes, in the sense that he was– and I get it, man. I get that you– this is your baby and you wanna fight for it and you wanna protect it and you will do anything, say anything, do anything, go anywhere, confront anybody. And in this day and age, you just — in 2018, you can’t.