'Crazy Eddie,' King of 'Insane' Prices, Dead at 68

Eddie Antar rose to success with his electronics retail chain, ended up in prison
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2016 8:20 AM CDT

If you came of age in the New York tri-state area in the '70s and '80s, it was hard to escape the "Crazy Eddie" ads that touted one of the region's most well-known electronics retailers. But there won't be any more Christmases in August for the man behind the store's name: Eddie Antar, the ex-owner of the now-defunct chain, died Saturday, the New York Times and New York Daily News report, citing confirmation from family and a local memorial provider. No cause of death was given. Antar built up his business from one Brooklyn store to more than 40 stores in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. People today still remember the Crazy Eddie commercials from that era, featuring frenetic pitchman Jerry Carroll (who many people thought was Eddie himself) bouncing around the set with high-energy enthusiasm and promising bargain prices that were "insane."

But despite the success of his retail chain—sales peaked at $350 million, per the Times—things started to fall apart in 1987, when investors staged a hostile takeover of the company and prosecutors went after Antar for securities fraud and insider trading. Antar disappeared to Israel for a few years but was extradited back to the US in 1993. He eventually accepted a plea deal to a racketeering conspiracy charge and served about seven years in prison. The new owners of the retail chain, meanwhile, had declared bankruptcy in 1989, and while Antar tried to get the business back up and running as an online venture once he got out of prison, it never took off. "He was very charming, charismatic, very powerful, very decisive. He was an incredible leader. … And then there was the dark side that got him into trouble," a former business associate who helped Antar develop his famous ads tells the Times. (More obituary stories.)

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