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Kevin O'Leary flies first class, but makes his kids fly coach — here's why

CNBC logo CNBC 7/9/2018 Ali Montag

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Kevin O'Leary runs several companies that bear his name: wine business O'Leary Fine Wines, private equity firm O'Leary Ventures and financial company O'Shares Investments. He's also famous as a judge on ABC's "Shark Tank," through which he's invested in businesses like Plated — a meal delivery company that sold to Albertson's for $300 million.

But it took years for O'Leary to succeed in business. And that struggle taught him something important.

"Entrepreneurship is not about the pursuit of wealth or money, nothing to do with it," he tells CNBC Make It. "It's the pursuit of personal freedom."

It's a lesson he hopes to pass on to his children Trevor and Savannah, both now in their 20s.

"I can afford to take my kids to any city anywhere on Earth every weekend, and I do. I work all week long, I'm usually gone, but I always say to my family, 'Pick a city; we'll all meet together,'" O'Leary says.

O'Leary's son Trevor often asks to tag along on trips to Geneva, Switzerland, where O'Leary's stepfather, George Kanawaty lives. (Kanawaty sparked O'Leary's love of travel as a kid, when he moved the family to exotic countries like Cambodia, Cyprus and Tunisia for his work with the International Labour Organization.)

a couple of people that are looking at the camera© Provided by CNBC O'Leary says he uses such trips as an opportunity to pass along a little fatherly wisdom about the value of work — by making his kids fly economy.

"We were getting on a flight to Geneva, it's a long flight, and Trevor said to me, 'Dad, why is it every time we get on this flight, I have to take a left and go sit in the back of the plane, and you take a right and go to the front? [You] sit in a big chair and they roll roast beef on a trolley by you, and I'm back in 69D.'"

O'Leary says tells CNBC Make It he has a simple answer: "I say, 'Trevor, you don't have any money.'"

"My son is making the connection between money and personal freedom," O'Leary writes in his book "Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money." "I think that's the greatest gift I've ever given him: to help him see that connection. And I constantly reinforce it by doing Mean Dad things like making him sit in those crappy economy seats."

O'Leary also is a firm believer in cutting your kids off financially after college, just like his mother did to him.

"I told [my kids] when they finished college, I was going to give them this: nothing," he previously told CNBC Make It. "Because that is what my mother did to me. You have to go make it on your own, and I think that is a very important lesson."

Don't miss: Kevin O'Leary: 3 tips to pick a great bottle of wine for under $20

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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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