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After attending Yale, the Sorbonne and Harvard Business School, Kiam became part of the Lever Brothers and Playtex company as a salesperson. He first made his fortune as the President and CEO of Remington Products, which he famously purchased after his wife bought him his first electric shaver. In 1994, Victor Kiam sold a controlling interest in Remington Products to Isaac Perlmutter. Kiam also operated two other companies: Ronson and TravelSmart. Kiam also bought the Benrus Watch Company in 1968, selling his majority stake in 1977.
Kiam became famous as the spokesperson for the Remington shaver. Kiam's famous catchphrase, "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company", made him a household name. He recorded each advertisement in the native language for the country in which it was broadcast. In the UK he became a celebrity appearing on tv chat shows including 'Wogan', 'The Tube' and David Frost's 'Through the Keyhole'.
In 1988, Kiam bought the NFL's New England Patriots for $84 million from founder Billy Sullivan. The sale did not include Foxboro Stadium, which Sullivan lost in a bankruptcy sale to paper magnate Robert Kraft, and Kiam lost money on the deal. In 1990, Lisa Olson, a Boston Herald reporter sued Kiam and the Patriots when Zeke Mowatt allegedly exposed himself and made lewd comments to her in the team change room. The incident stirred debate over female reporters in the locker room. Kiam became the center of the controversy when he came to the defense of the players' actions. "I can't disagree with the players' actions," he said, and claimed that the Herald "asked for trouble" by assigning a female reporter to cover the Patriots. He made headlines when he reportedly described Olson as a "classic bitch." The case was reportedly settled for approximately $250,000, Kiam took out a full-page ad in the Herald to apologize, and three players were fined. Despite his apology, he drew audience groans six months later when he spoke at an athletics banquet and asked, "Do you know what Lisa Olson has in common with the Iraqis? They've both seen Patriot missiles up close."
By 1992 Kiam's finances were in a tailspin, and he was facing bankruptcy. He was in considerable debt to St. Louis businessman James Orthwein, and was forced to sell his 51 percent stake in the Patriots to him in part to service the debt. (Orthwein would eventually sell that stake to Kraft only two years later after an aborted attempt to move the Patriots to St. Louis.)
Kiam resided in Stamford, Connecticut at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife, Ellen, and three children, Lisa Durkin, Victor "Tory" Kiam III, and Robin Kiam Aviv, and seven grandchildren, Jenny, Alexander, Sophia, Lia, Caleigh, Nikki, and Blake.
Upon Kiam's death The Times quoted one of his closest business associates in later years, Jonathon Lyons, as saying that he was "a truly remarkable entrepreneur of the old kind – the kind they simply don't make any more."
Kiam wrote the following books about business and entrepreneurship:
- Going for It!: How to Succeed As an Entrepreneur
- Keep going for it!: living the life of an entrepreneur
- Live to Win: Achieving Success in Life and Business
- Wohlfert-Wihlborg, Lee (13 September 1982). "Remington Boss Victor Kiam Keeps His Chin Up; but Will He Be Nicked by Norelco?". People. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "I liked the slogan so much...". BBC News. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Billy Sullivan, 86 [sic], Founder Of Football Patriots, Dies The New York Times. Accessed 20 October 2007.
- Kunen, James S. (15 October 1990). "Sportswriter Lisa Olson Calls the New England Patriots Out of Bounds for Sexual Harassment". People. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "Kiam Apologizes for Joke". LA Times. 7 February 1991. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- "Victor Kiam dies aged 74". BBC. 29 May 2001. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Going for it!: how to succeed as an entrepreneur, ISBN 0-688-06060-9
- Keep going for it!: living the life of an entrepreneur, ISBN 978-0-00-215403-1
- Live to Win: Achieving Success in Life and Business, ISBN 978-0-06-109907-6
- "Victor Kiam: We liked him so much". Ad Age Global 1 (10): 5. June 2001.
|New England Patriots Principal Owner