The Electronic Retailing Association

Honoring Joe Segel, 1931-2019

by Budd Margolis

Joseph Segel (1931-2019) founded 20 companies including QVC and The Franklin Mint. He described himself as a "serial entrepreneur". Harvard Business School described him as one of the greatest business leaders of the 20th century.

Everyone who works in the TV shopping, DRTV and direct marketing industry owes a debt of gratitude to Joseph Segel who passed away on December 21st. Where would TV shopping be without categories and themed hours, item numbers, shipping & handling graphics?  The industry owes all that and much more to Mr. Segel.

Joseph M. Segel was an extraordinary American entrepreneur. He was the founder of over 20 American companies, most notably QVC, an American television network, and the Franklin Mint, a producer of mail-order collectibles. Segel was named to the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame in 1993.

As Joe’s son Marvin Segel told me a few weeks ago, his father was still active and inventing with his latest development HairRx, a hair care system, which was launched in 2018. I reached out to Marv, a friend, industry maven and merchandising expert on December 24th and he kindly responded:

My father was all about the details and doing it right. What is standard today in the industry was not done 30+ years ago! As an example … before QVC no shopping channel ever disclosed shipping & handling costs! My father felt that was wrong and the customer should know all the costs before making a purchase! That is now the standard today! What retailer does it’s own Q&A testing … QVC does!

Marvin Segel

I have followed Joseph Segel’s career since I started with QVC UK which launched October 1st, 1993.  I was fascinated by this new concept which mixed retail with TV in a live and dynamic shopping experience with the motto Quality, Value & Convenience.  I owe my career and work in over 50 countries to Mr Segel’s and the QVC concept which I have deployed hundreds of times over 30+ years.

Many millions of QVC members bought billions of dollars of goods which delighted, thrilled and provided solutions to problems many of them had no idea about or no solution for.  QVC delivered fun and interesting presentations and products and the concept was spread across the world. But no other TV shop channel did what QVC accomplished.

Joe Segel observed HSN and went down to Florida where he met, among others,  the very first shop channel presenter Bob Circosta. Joe studied, investigated and pointed out many issues he identified to Bud Paxson & Roy Speer, the first TV shop channels founders. Bud & Roy did not agree.  So, in 1986, he developed a much better format, one that HSN would have to copy in time.

The year QVC launched there were 17 other shopping channels, Comcast and Liberty Media, both major American cable TV companies, were early investors and provided QVC with valuable real estate in channel designation. A clear advantage. The corporation later set a new USA record for first full-year fiscal sales for a new public company of $112 million. Source: Wikipedia

In 1989, QVC acquired its top competitor, the Cable Value Network (CVN) for $380m and many said this was a mouse that had swallowed an elephant. Inheriting an audience presented many issues and  lessons and in time these were solved but they did cause concern and reduced profits.

QVC would expand to Mexico and UK, close Mexico (peso crisis) and open Japan and Germany, then Italy & France, open up in China and then close France. International would provide many years of good growth and a third of revenues. QVC took a stake in the company and on July 6, 2017, QVC's parent company, Liberty Interactive, announced its intention to purchase the remaining 62% of stock it didn't already own of HSN, the rival home shopping channel.

But Joseph Segel was much more than the founder of QVC. This great American entrepreneur was a mentor to many, formed 20 major companies, was an inventor and in 1971, Segel was elected chairman of the Board of Governors of the United Nations Association of the USA. Two years later, President Gerald Ford appointed him as a member of the U.S. Delegation to that year's United Nations General Assembly, where he served under Henry Kissinger. He also organised a national campaign of the Advertising Council to improve public understanding of the United Nations, chaired a national conference on the United Nations for the American Society of Newspapers Editors and testified in support of the United Nations before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1986 he wrote an article in The New York Times in defense of Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim's recently discovered service as a Wehrmacht intelligence officer during WWII.

Further, he was awarded the Philip H. Ward Jr. Medal from The Franklin Institute in 1977. In 2005, Segel was included in the Harvard Business School selection of The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century.  Then, in 2007, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania published their selection of The Most Influential Wharton Alumni and Faculty in the Wharton School's 125-year history.  Segel was one of only 10 people who was on both of these lists.

It is remarkable for anyone to start and manage a major company but over 20 companies is legendary. 

Mr. Segel is survived by his two sons, Alan and Marvin, stepdaughter Sandy Stern, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He was universally admired and respected in every industry he touched. He only left a trail of happiness, wealth and success for others. That’s his legacy.

Alan Segel

Contributions may be made to Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19148, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Tens of thousands of us, across the world, owe gratitude and respect for the remarkable life accomplishment of Joseph Segel. Rest In Peace.  Respect, gratitude & condolences to his family.

Businesses started by Joseph Segel

1947 - Eastern Advertising Co., Inc. -- advertising specialties.
1949 - Desk-Sign Manufacturing Co., Inc. -- personalized desk signs.
1950 - Magicard Co., Inc. -- promotional mailing pieces.
1950 - Advertising Specialty Institute—promotional products trade information center.
1953 - Colorcrafters, Inc. -- pioneer in full-color printing.
1954 - Selective Gift Institute, Inc. -- business gift selection service.
1960 - National Business Services, Inc. -- consolidation of last 3 businesses.
1961 - Gem Publishing Co., Inc. – books featuring humorous sayings.
1962 - Jordan-Edwards Co., Inc. -- pocket appointment and record books.
1964 - National Commemorative Society, Inc. -- producer of commemorative medals.
1964 - The Franklin Mint (initially called General Numismatics Corporation).
1965 - Britannia Commemorative Society, Inc. -- producer of commemorative medals.
1970 - Le Mirador, S.A. -- Swiss resort hotel, spa and conference center.
1975 - Presidential Airways, Inc. -- private jet and helicopter charter service.
1977 - RateSearch Corporation—computerized air freight rate analysis service.
1981 - PermaColor Corporation—systems to preserve color photos.
1983 - Software Digest, Inc. -- PC software rating reports.
1983 - National Software Testing Laboratories, Inc. -- PC software testing.
1986 - QVC Network, Inc. – televised home shopping.
1997 - International Skincare Research, Inc. – Le Mirador skincare products for QVC.
1997 - SmokeStoppers, Inc. – smoking cessation programs
2008 - GoBYO.com - online restaurant database focusing on BYOB-friendly restaurants.
(Source: Wikipedia)