Minturn resident on ‘Survivor’ |

Minturn resident on ‘Survivor’

Lauren Glendenning
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Survivor-Synnott 1 KA 01-18-09

MINTURN, Colorado ” When Brendan Synnott heard he would be a cast member on the CBS reality TV show “Survivor,” he went to the local fish market back home in Connecticut and asked if the employees there could show him how to gut a fish.

“They taught me how to rip out the gills and gut it and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure I had done it one time before I had to do it for my only food source, if there was going to be fish down there (in Brazil).”

Synnott is the kind of guy who’s up for anything, said his friend Angela Rossi, who lives in Edwards. He’s athletic and has a good head on his shoulders ” two traits Rossi said are perfect for “Survivor.”

Synnott, of Minturn, went to Brazil for two months this past fall to film the show. He couldn’t contact his friends or family during the trip, and since his return he hasn’t been able to say much about what he experienced there.

CBS makes sure the cast members stay tight-lipped about the show until the episodes play out on television. A CBS representative, Brett Gold, was even on the phone with the Vail Daily while we interviewed Synnott for this story.

Rossi and Brad Ludden, of Gypsum, both have no idea how far their buddy made it in the show. Contestants get eliminated one by one until the final man or woman standing is announced in the finale. That winner also gets a million bucks.

It’s hard to know how difficult the show was for Synnott. He couldn’t tell us whether he lost any weight, what the contestants ate, whether he experienced any physical changes or discovered what his weaknesses are in the wilderness.

He said he tried to prepare for the adjustment as much as possible, but it was hard to prepare for such a drastic change.

“They take away everything that you know that you’re comfortable with in your own life, and so you try to think about what that’s going to feel like,” Synnott said. “But until somebody actually takes it away from you, I don’t think you can actually know that.”

Ludden said he knew Synnott would get chosen to do the show if Synnott were to apply.

“He’s made for it,” Ludden said.

Synnott, a Vanderbilt University alum, is smart, Ludden said. He helped found a granola company, Bear Naked, with a friend in 2002. The company took off, and the pair sold it in late 2007 for $60 million, according to CNN.

“A lot of the strategy he used in his business he could put to work (on “Survivor”) as well,” Ludden said. “He sort of went into it with nothing to lose (which) makes him a great contestant.”

The $1 million grand prize has been a motivator for many contestants on past seasons of the show, but for Synnott, it was the thrill of the game. He agreed to do the show for the experience of it all. He wasn’t looking for fame or fortune, he said. He saw the game as something that really mimics his approach to business ” they take away everything and you have to break yourself down and start from scratch to rebuild, he said.

“I hope to win a million dollars, but I’m not going to be devastated without it,” he said. “For me this is really about just having a great experience and I’m going to go on with my life the same way I would anyway. … It was about challenging myself in a way that is really unique and is pretty hard to replicate anywhere else.”

After Synnott’s success with selling his business, he has focused a lot on philanthropy. He started a nonprofit organization recently called ONUS. He says the concept is adventure philanthropy, much like his friend Ludden’s organization First Descents, which takes cancer survivors on kayaking trips to rebuild their minds and spirits. Synnott hates seeing organizations that do good things struggle because its funding sources have dried up because of the economy. Instead, he wants to take adventure philanthropy and give people some value for their donations.

If Synnott wins the “Survivor” grand prize, he would give the money to ONUS, he said. The show ends in May, but there’s no finale date scheduled yet.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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