Dustin Cohen
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June 09, 2016 09:00 AM

Marcus Lemonis is a mogul worth a reported $167 million, but The Profit star struggled from a very early age.

After he was adopted from an orphanage in war-torn Beirut, Lemonis had a loving relationship with his parents, but still experienced a “rough childhood.”

As an adolescent, Lemonis battled an eating disorder, depression and was sexually abused by someone in his extended family.

Despite his struggles, the entrepreneur, who invests his own cash to save small businesses on his hit CNBC show, says his dark days have helped him connect with others.

“I learned the key to business is being vulnerable and creating a connection,” says Lemonis who speaks openly about his past.

Marcus Lemonis at 9 months old
Courtesy Marcus Lemonis
Marcus Lemonis in grade school
Courtesy Marcus Lemonis
Marcus Lemonis and and his mother Sophie
Courtesy Marcus Lemonis

After graduating from Marquette University in 1995, Lemonis worked his way up in the RV business, later merging his own company FreedomRoads with Camping World to create a $3 billion empire.

Making appearances on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and ABC’s Secret Millionaire, Lemonis went on to create his own business reality series The Profit.

“For me, getting involved with small business was largely a way for me to say, I feel like I’ve been an underdog my whole life. I’m going to use whatever wealth I have, whatever influence I have and whatever platform I have to tell that story.”

For more on Marcus Lemonis’ powerful success story, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Muhammad Ali on the cover of PEOPLE

Now, with his new show The Partner in the works, where candidates compete to help him run one of his companies, Lemonis is clear about his career.

“I think too often in business we have these really pompous guys that think that business is about wearing the really cool suit,” he says. “I want be the opposite of that. I want to be the relatable person that people can say, ‘That guy is really messed up, but he figured it out.’ So business was a way for me to level the playing field.”

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