Categotry Archives: Business


Mark Balelo

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Categories: Business, Hollywood

Mark BaleloMark Balelo, an auction house owner who made multiple appearances on the A&E reality TV show “Storage Wars,” was found dead on Feb. 11. He was 40.

Balelo was one of the deep-pocketed buyers featured on the show that depicts storage-unit auctions. The former owner of a chain of thrift stores, Balelo had a knack for bargaining and finding treasure among trash.

Nicknamed “Rico Suave” for his flamboyant style, Balelo once hosted a live auction right before Halloween while dressed as Superman. He carried a “man purse” (or “murse”), which he considered his good-luck bag; the murses became so popular with fans that he later sold them on eBay.

Balelo also was instrumental in helping Nicolas Cage recover a mint-condition copy of a 1938 Action Comics book that was stolen from the actor’s storage locker. The comic book was valued at $1 million.

Balelo owned Balelo Inc., a business that specializes in asset liquidations and closeout sales. Until recently, he ran a gaming store called The Game Exchange. Although Balelo loved working — “My work is my hobby nowadays” — his favorite past-times included flying private planes, listening to music, hanging out with friends and going to Vegas. A strong competitor with a no-holds-barred attitude, he was best known on “Storage Wars” for beating the competition by showing up to auctions carrying more than $50,000 in cash.

Balelo was arrested over the weekend for alleged possession of a controlled substance. He was reportedly distraught after being released from jail.

One of Balelo’s employees found his body inside a business warehouse in Simi Valley, Calif., on Monday morning. Armando Chavez, senior deputy medical examiner, refused to provide any information as to Balelo’s cause of death. An autopsy will be conducted on Feb. 12.

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

[Update – Feb. 13, 2013: Balelo’s death has been declared a suicide by the Ventura County medical examiner’s office. His body was also found in a business warehouse in Simi Valley, Calif. An earlier report stated that he was found in his home garage.]


Elmer Lynn Hauldren

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Categories: Business, Musicians

“5-8-8 2-300. Empire!”

For much of the past four decades, just about everyone living in or near Chicago knew that telephone number. They knew Empire sold carpets. They knew the company spokesman on sight because he’d appeared in more than 1,000 television commercials. Between ball games, soap operas and local newscasts, The Empire Man was always there.

Elmer Lynn Hauldren — The Empire Man — died on April 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

The St. Louis native served as an Army radio operator in Asia during World War II. Upon his return to the states, Hauldren worked at Young & Rubicam, Bozell Jacobs and DDB Needham as an advertising copywriter. One of his clients was the flooring company, Empire.

In the 1970s, Empire decided to try a new approach to promoting its brand. After several unsuccessful auditions, Empire’s former owner, Seymour Cohen, asked the soft-spoken Hauldren to be the company’s pitchman. Tapping into his advertising background, Hauldren created The Empire Man character, who was part-carpet installer and part-blue collar superhero. He also wrote the well-known jingle and sang it with the a cappella group The Fabulous 40s. Over time, TV viewers became so accustomed to seeingĀ Hauldren in the Empire ads that many assumed he actually owned the company.

When Empire expanded its services nationwide, The Empire Man became a pop culture icon. He was so famous that a line of Bobblehead dolls featuring his face was created. In 2007, he even threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field on “Empire Day.”

Hauldren continued to promote Empire products in radio and TV commercials until his death. The most recent ads feature an animated version of Hauldren, for which he provided the voice.

Privately, Hauldren’s passion was music. He recorded several albums with the doctor-themed barbershop quartet Chordiac Arrest, including “Live and Well!” and “Second Opinion,” and performed with the vocal quartet Chordplay.


Bob Guccione

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Categories: Business

Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione, the founder and former chief executive of Penthouse magazine, was a man who took calculated risks. Some paid off, others cost him millions.

The Brooklyn native originally planned to become a Catholic priest, and even attended the seminary, but dropped out when puberty caused his hormones to kick in. He wed at 18 and fathered a daughter named Toni, but the marriage foundered, and Guccione headed to Europe to work as a painter and journalist. He wed a second time, to British singer Muriel Hudson, and fathered four more children (Bob Jr., Nina, Anthony and Nick); however, his habit of amassing large debts ended that union.

Unable to make a decent living as an artist, Guccione next decided to try his luck at pornographic publishing. With less than $2,000 on hand, he launched Penthouse in 1965 as a low-brow competitor to Playboy, the glamorous adult magazine run by Hugh Hefner. In the magazine’s early years, Guccione couldn’t afford professional talent so he ended up photographing most of the models. He enjoyed pushing boundaries with each spread, and bragged about his decision to publish “lesbians, threesomes, full-frontal male nudity, erect penises.” Tabloid journalism, a racy letters column and beautiful centerfold models known as “Pets” helped Penthouse find an audience in the U.K. and the U.S. At its peak in the 1970s, Penthouse reportedly sold nearly 5 million copies a month.

Penthouse also inflamed the public’s passions with its controversial offerings. Feminists and conservatives blasted its raunchy content. In 1984, the magazine ran a sexually explicit pictorial of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to win the title of Miss America. The pictures cost Williams her crown, but generated $14 million in profit for Guccione.

A year later, Guccione offered the serial killer known as The Unabomber a monthly column in Penthouse if he promised to stop taking lives. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. The Unabomber, gave Guccione permission to print his unedited manifesto, but with one caveat: he reserved the right to murder one more person. Guccione refused to take the bait. A tip from Kaczynski’s brother led to his capture in 1996. Kaczynski later pleaded guilty to 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing and using bombs and three counts of murder, and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Penthouse began to lose readers in 1986 when U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography issued a report attacking the adult entertainment industry, prompting newsstands and convenience stores to pull the publication from their racks. In the 1990s, sales took a hit as subscribers began to seek out free porn and X-rated video online.

Although Guccione was once listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people ($400 million net worth in 1982), bad investments and risky ventures eventually cost him much of his fortune. He spent $17.5 million producing an X-rated version of “Caligula.” The 1979 film, which starred Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, tanked at the box office. He tried to open a $200 million casino in Atlantic City but a stubborn resident and a licensing issue stalled construction for years. Guccione was forced to pay $45 million in back taxes in 1985 and another $80 million in 1992. And in 2003, General Media, the publishing arm of Penthouse International, declared bankruptcy.

His personal life was no less tumultuous. Guccione’s third wife, Kathy Keeton, an exotic dancer who was entrusted with the financial management of his publishing empire, died in 1997 from breast cancer. Her death affected him deeply. He wed a fourth time in 2006, to exotic dancer April Dawn Warren, but spent much of their marriage battling throat and lung cancer. Relations with some of his children also fell apart over money matters. In recent years, soaring debts forced Guccione to sell off many of his possessions, including an impressive art collection and his 27-room mansion in Manhattan.

Guccione died on Oct. 20 of lung cancer. He was 79.


Donald Goerke

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Categories: Business

Donald Edward Goerke, the “Daddy-O of SpaghettiOs,” died on Jan. 10 of heart failure. He was 83.
Born in Waukesha, Wis., Goerke served in the Army Air Force during World War II, then earned a bachelor’s degree from Carroll College and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. He started his career in marketing as a researcher for the Blatz Brewery before landing a marketing analyst job at the Campbell Soup Company.
During his 35-year career with Campbell’s, Goerke introduced more than 100 products, including Chunky Soup, a hearty ready-to-serve soup that “eats like a meal.” This product was a radical departure from the company’s traditional line of condensed soups, which require the addition of either milk or water.
But Goerke was best known for inventing SpaghettiOs, a reheatable pasta covered in a sweet tomato and cheese sauce. In the early 1960s, he and his team began brainstorming ways to make canned pasta more appealing to children. After considering various shapes, including stars and rocketships, Goerke decided to keep it simple and sell pasta that looked like a tiny “O.”
The product was an instant hit with American families when it launched in 1965 with the catchy commercial jingle, “Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs.” Parents and children both liked the fact that the food was “spoonable,” easy to make and fun to eat. Today, more than 150 million cans of SpaghettiOs are sold each year. SpaghettiOs now come in five variations (original, pasta with meatballs, pasta fortified with extra calcium, RavioliOs and pasta with sliced franks) and two other shapes (A to Zs and fun shapes).
Although he left the company in 1990, Goerke came out of retirement five years later to help promote the 30th anniversary of SpaghettiOs on “The Today Show” and “What’s My Line?”
Goerke was described by friends and family as kind, even-tempered, outgoing and loyal. He was active in community affairs and served as the former president of the Merchantville, N.J., school board. The husband, father, grandfather and avid golf player was also an active member of the Riverton Country Club in Cinnaminson, N.J.


Steve Bernard

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Categories: Business

Stephen Francis Bernard, co-founder of the Cape Cod Potato Chips company, died March 7 of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.
The New Hampshire native earned an economics degree from the University of Notre Dame, then spent the next few years traveling around the country and doing odd jobs. Determined and innovative, he fought forest fires, fished for tuna, ran an auto parts business, sailed to the Turks & Caicos Islands and opened a natural foods store.
In 1980, Bernard and his wife, Lynn, began serving kettle-cooked potato chips at their shop in Hyannis, Mass. Made from potatoes grown on Maine farms and fried in small kettles, the thick chips cooked up crisper and bulkier than ordinary chips. Free samples found favor with locals and tourists alike, but the Bernards struggled to make ends meet until a motorist drove into their front window — and almost hit their daughter. News coverage of the accident bought customers to the door, and soon people from all over New England were visiting the shop to eat and buy their snacks.
Knowing they had a winner on their hands, the Bernards founded Cape Cod Potato Chips. Over time, their factory became a top tourist attraction in the region, one that welcomed 250,000 visitors annually. The company also expanded its product line to include other kinds of chips including: sea salt & vinegar, sea salt & cracked pepper, buttermilk ranch, mesquite barbecue, jalapeno & aged cheddar, blue corn, white corn, cheddar jack & sour cream, veggie tortilla and reduced fat.
Anheuser-Busch bought Cape Cod Potato Chips in 1985, and operated it as a division of its Eagle Snacks unit. By the following year, up to 80,000 bags were sold each day in the U.S. and Canada, with annual sales of $16 million. But when Anheuser-Busch dissolved its snack food division, the Bernards bought it back. They owned the company for three years before selling it to Lance Inc. in 1999.
In the final years of his life, Bernard enjoyed gardening, fly fishing, watching Notre Dame football and playing mini golf with his grandsons. He also co-founded Late July Organic snacks, with his daughter Nicole Dawes in 2001. Friends and family remembered him as a loyal, passionate, adventurous and principled man.

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