Remington’s Victor Kiam

Lessons in leadership from the man who revamped Remington


"The old kind of entrepreneur…they don’t make anymore,” was the epithet that adorned newspapers across the world when the legendary Victor Kiam, well known and loved for his Remington razor advertisements, passed away in 2001.

Kiam moved into the big time when he took over Remington in 1979. The struggling company had lost £30m in the previous five years and looked to be on the brink of collapse. So when he told us he “liked the razor so much he bought the company”, he must have meant it, because there was little else about Remington to love.

Kiam turned Remington around by trimming the fat off the business and using a lifetime of selling experience to revamp its underperforming sales and marketing departments. He also expanded it products range and, of course, he wrote and fronted one of the best-known advertisements to cross the Atlantic.

 

Like many great entrepreneurs, Kiam started making money at an early age. When he was eight, he set up a Coca-Cola stand on the streets of New Orleans. In the 1950s, he was a star salesman at Lever Brothers, working his way up the ranks before joining Playtex. His first venture was as chief executive of Benrus, the corporate watchmaker, where he amassed enough money to buy Remington. 

He loved consumer brands, starting new businesses and bringing unknown products to market. He had huge reserves of energy and charisma, which fuelled those around him. He also said that he would rather help a company earn its first million than all the millions that came after it – a true entrepreneur.

Factfile: Born: December 7, 1926 Died: May 27, 2001 Business career: After success at Lever Brothers and Playtex he became chief executive of Benrus the watchmaker. He bought Remington in 1979, and in 1988 the US football team the New England Patriots Tell me something I didn’t know: During his time working as a salesman, Kiam was known to have used a trained monkey to help sell to potential customers

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