Eddie Antar was an entrepreneur who realized the highs of business success as well as the lows of fraud and running from authorities. You might not recognize his name, but if you were alive in the late 1970s and 1980s, you’d be hard pressed not to know his business: he was the founder of the Crazy Eddie discount electronics store chain.
From his quirky TV and radio commercials, how could you forget that his prices were totally “inasaaaaaane!”
Antar died on Saturday. He was 68.
Born in 1947, Antar opened his first Crazy Eddie electronics store when he was in his early 20s, in Brooklyn, N.Y. With the help of his popular commercials – which aired for nearly 15 years and starred radio personality Jerry Carroll – the business grew into a small empire of stores up and down the East Coast. VCRs, video games and camcorders (remember those?) were hot sellers at the time.
But Antar’s "success" wouldn’t last forever. Here’s a quick look at 11 moments during his rise and fascinatingly bizarre fall:
- Antar opened his first Crazy Eddie electronics store in 1969 on Kings Highway in Brooklyn.
- The term “crazy” came from Antar’s wild sales style. Apparently, he’d accept customers’ shoes as deposits on items like TVs or stereos.
- His first commercial aired in 1975. Each one ended with the phrase, “'Crazy Eddie, his prices are insaaaaaane!'' He continued to open new locations in the New York metro area.
- Riding the brand’s popularity (those ads were memorable), Antar took the company public in 1984.
- At its height, the company had more than 40 locations from Boston to Philadelphia, and was generating as much as $350 million in revenue a year.
- By 1987, stockholders discovered that $45 million in merchandise was missing. His business and accounting practices were called into question and the stockholders staged a takeover of the company. After all, how could he have such insanely low prices?
- Federal prosecutors eventually charged Antar and his family of skimming cash and manipulating the company’s stock.
- In 1989, Crazy Eddie filed for bankruptcy and its final store closed.
- The following year, Antar fled the country and was later found living in Israel. He was extradited and served seven years in U.S. prison.
- Antar’s cousin, Sam, who was the company’s CFO, pleaded guilty to fraud and later served as a consultant to governmental agencies that were investigating accounting fraud.
- In 2001, a newly freed Antar attempted to bring Crazy Eddie’s back, selling electronics online. Despite the cheesy ads, there wasn’t enough steam in the brand for a second go and the company failed.