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About Crazy Eddie
Crazy Eddie was an American retail business that sold electronic goods. The company did business in several forms. The first, and what would eventually become the most famous/infamous of the three, was a chain of retail stores that did business in stores located New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, as well as by phone. The second was a venture that initially began as a retail store but eventually was reorganized as an internet and phone business. The third and most recent was an online and buy-by-phone store. As of 2015, none of the three Crazy Eddie ventures is conducting business.
Crazy Eddie was started in 1971 in Brooklyn, New York by businessmen Eddie Antar and Sam M. Antar as ERS Electronics, named after Eddie; his cousin and partner, Ronnie Gindi; and Eddie's father, Sam. The chain rose to prominence throughout the Tri-State Region as much for its prices as for its memorable radio and television commercials, featuring a frenetic, "crazy" character played by radio DJ Jerry Carroll (who copied most of his shtick from early TV-commercial pioneer, used car and electronics salesman Earl "Madman" Muntz). At its peak, Crazy Eddie had 43 stores in the chain, and earned more than $300 million in sales.
Carroll's commercials invariably ended with the tag-line "Crazy Eddie's prices are insane! " which, despite the chain's relatively limited geographical reach, passed into U.S. national pop culture in the early 1970s and remained a live archetype of frenetic pitch-making for decades afterwards, even following the collapse of the original business.
In February 1987, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey commenced a federal grand jury investigation into the warranty billing practices of Crazy Eddie. In September of that year, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an investigation into alleged violations of federal securities laws by certain Crazy Eddie officers and employees. Eddie Antar was eventually charged with a series of crimes.
Unable to sustain his fraudulent business practices, co-founder Eddie Antar cashed in millions of dollars' worth of stock and resigned from the company in December 1986. Crazy Eddie's board of directors lost control of the company in November 1987 after a proxy battle with a group led by Elias Zinn and Victor Palmieri, known as the Oppenheimer-Palmieri Group. The entire Antar family was immediately removed from the business. The new owners quickly discovered the true extent of the Antar family's fraud, but were unable to turn around Crazy Eddie's quickly declining fortunes. In 1989, the company declared bankruptcy and was liquidated. Crazy Eddie became a symbol for corporate fraud in its time, but has since been eclipsed by the Enron, Worldcom and Bernie Madoff accounting scandals.
Antar fled to Israel in February 1990, but was returned to the United States in January 1993 to stand trial. His 1993 conviction on fraud charges was overturned, but he eventually pleaded guilty in 1996. In 1997, Antar was sentenced to eight years in prison and paid large fines. He was released from prison in 1999.