Richard Thalheimer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Richard Jay Thalheimer
Born 1948 (age 67–68)
Alma mater Yale University
Hastings Law School
Occupation lawyer, entrepreneur
Known for Founder of The Sharper Image

Richard Thalheimer (born 1948) is founder, and former CEO and chairman, of The Sharper Image Corporation.

Early life[edit]

Richard Thalheimer's family settled in Arkansas before the American Civil War and started a livery business. Thalheimer was raised in Little Rock. After graduating from Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, he left for New Haven and graduated from Yale University in 1970. He entered San Francisco's University of California, Hastings College of the Law the following year, graduated with a J.D. degree, and was admitted to the California Bar in July 1974.


While still a law student, the 24-year-old Richard Thalheimer started a part-time office supply business in San Francisco, with $500 worth of copier paper. He named his fledgling enterprise "The Sharper Image," in part to help promote the quality of his copy machines.

After graduating from law school in 1974, Thalheimer passed the California bar exam and practiced law in San Francisco for a year. In 1977, Thalheimer discovered a product he believed would sell well in magazine advertisements — a special runner's watch, which was a waterproof digital chronograph. In the summer of 1977, Thalheimer chose legendary ultra-marathoner Walt Stack to be the "poster boy" for the Realtime Watch, which Thalheimer promoted as the first affordable, waterproof, and shock-resistant chronograph that could be reliably used by joggers ("The only chronograph that keeps up with the amazing Walt Stack"). Thalheimer took out an ad in Runner's World Magazine featuring his friend Walt Stack, and sold tens of thousands of the watches at $69 apiece.

This watch was the first of its kind for a reasonable price, became very successful and It established The Sharper Image as a tech-leader in cutting edge products. Later, Thalheimer discovered additional products that allowed The Sharper Image to increase sales nationally through its magazine ads and catalog mailings, including introducing the first cordless telephone, the first telephone answering machine, the first hand-held micro-computer, the first children's two-wheel Razor Scooter, and the company's most successful product, the Ionic Breeze Air Purifier.

As a result of the success of the Ionic Breeze, revenues rose to a record $760 million in 2003, with almost 200 stores in upscale shopping centers in the USA. Sharper Image licensed stores were also opened at this time in London, Paris, Tokyo, and Mexico City. He is credited with originating the upscale "gadget business" in catalog and stores, and was one of the first to utilize the power of the Internet when The Sharper Image launched its website, and started selling online in 1996.

Thalheimer has from time to time attempted to influence politics in San Francisco, going so far as to send an email in 2003 to all corporate office employees of his company in which he suggested they vote for the business-friendly Gavin Newsom for mayor, over the Green party candidate, Matt Gonzalez.

Thalheimer and his daughter have appeared in television infomercials for the Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze, as well as the FresherLonger Miracle Food Storage Set.

In March 2006, a hedge fund group purchased shares in Sharper Image and demanded Board representation. A compromise was reached, and Thalheimer installed three of these shareholders on the Board. [1]

The relationship between founder Thalheimer, and the new Board members was not to prove as successful as hoped. Due to friction between Thalheimer and the new investors, in September 26, 2006, Thalheimer was removed as CEO. Thalheimer stepped aside, and was replaced at that time by interim CEO Jerry W. Levin, former CEO of Revlon, The Coleman Company and American Household). For six months, Thalheimer remained on the company's Board of Directors and kept his spot as the largest shareholder of The Sharper Image until May 2007 (21%).

By May 2007, the hedge fund Board members had finalized an agreement with Thalheimer to buy his remaining shares, following up their belief that they were about to move the company ahead, and that the share price would soon increase. After a lengthy negotiation, he sold his full remaining stock position in the company he founded 30 years prior, for $25 million, or 9.25 per share. This proved to be a fortuitous sale, as the new Board members' ambitions were not realized, sales rapidly declined under their supervision, and 9 months later, their shares were worthless as they went into bankruptcy, losing their entire investment in Sharper Image shares. .[2]

Mr. Thalheimer has since started a new website,[1][2] It is a private company, featuring the same genre of products previously sold at The Sharper Image and makes the claim of superior customer service and satisfaction as a first priority. In July 2008, a product featured prominently on his website became quite popular.[3]

Company bankruptcy[edit]

Sharper Image filed for protection on February 19, 2008 with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, 18 months after Thalheimer was forced out, and only 9 months after buying out Thalheimer. The company closed all of its 184 stores in August 2008.


  1. ^ "RichardSolo Project". Fox News. March 2010. 
  2. ^ "Richard Thalheimer Interview". American Project. April 2010. 
  3. ^ "RichardSolo battery packs iPhone power in a small package". Boston Herald. July 23, 2008. 

External links[edit]