Thank you Dick Krain, VP of Grey Advertising. We havefriends since the 1970s. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I enjoy this article very much and now will share with others.
Crazy Eddie boasted some of the most impressive retail sales in the country. But its owner was more interested in conducting a brazen fraud.
On September 13, 1984, as stocks wavered through a bear market, a regional electronics chain held a hyped initial public offering.
If it seems odd that a purveyor of VCRs and stereos could make investors swoon, remember that this was the 1980s, and people were getting pumped about cellular phones that were roughly the size of microwaves. And know that this electronics company was Crazy Eddie, a brand that, in so many ways, was breaking the usual rules.
The previous fiscal year, Crazy Eddie’s annual revenues were ~$134m, or ~$372m today. More impressively, the 13-store New York City-area chain led the electronics industry in sales per square foot and profit margins.
Crazy Eddie was also a cultural sensation, rising to fame with absurd commercials that Dan Akroyd parodied on Saturday Night Live. In the 1984 movie Splash, Darryl Hannah’s character watched a Crazy Eddie ad when she first discovered TV.
That first day, investors purchased nearly 2m shares of Crazy Eddie for $8 apiece, under the ticker CRZY. By the end of the year, the stock would climb 25%, far outpacing a flat market and boosting Crazy Eddie’s plans for greater expansion.
There was just one major problem.
Crazy Eddie had been lying about its numbers since its inception — and the higher the stock soared the further founder Eddie Antar went to maintain the illusion.
“It was Goodfellas,” one attorney later told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “except they operated with briefcases instead of guns.”
The insaaaaane rise of Crazy Eddie
Eddie Antar was a 22-year-old high school dropout when he opened his first store in 1969, near the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn.
He was the classic outer-borough tough guy: almost bald with a scraggly goatee, allergic to wearing anything but sweats, crude yet charming at the same time.
Antar believed people would flock to stores that sold items like speakers, VCRs, and televisions under the same roof — and he was right.
Industry-wide, sales of electronics jumped from $8.5B in the late 1960s to $35B by the mid-1980s.
By 1979, Antar had 8 stores and shared the success with his family, which was part of a tightknit Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn. His father, Sam M. Antar, uncle Eddy Antar, and brothers Mitchell and Allen Antar all held key positions.
Meanwhile, Eddie Antar made sure everyone in New York City knew his business by flooding TV and radio with catchy ads shaped by advertising director Larry Weiss.
Weiss was well-connected in the radio and music industries and hired radio DJ Jerry Carroll to be Crazy Eddie’s spokesperson. (Other candidates for the job included the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.)
The ads were as catchy as they were unavoidable. By the early 80s, Crazy Eddie was spending ~$5.5m (~~$15.3m today) on advertising and claimed to be the largest purchaser of radio and TV advertising in the New York market.
And Antar built upon the ubiquitous marketing with innovative customer service:
Crazy Eddie stores stayed open on holidays and Sundays, at a time when many retailers still followed a Chick-Fil-A schedule.
Antar rarely listed prices in ads but guaranteed he would have the lowest prices in New York and matched competitors’ offers if his customers found a better deal. Fewer than 1 in 5 Crazy Eddie customers tried to match prices.
“In business — and in life in general — he was daring and took chances, and wasn’t afraid of consequences,” Weiss told The Hustle.
Weiss had no idea Antar was partaking in business practices that were more daring than he could imagine.
‘Nothing should go to the government’
Every night starting at 10:30, Crazy Eddie store managers descended on the Brooklyn home of Antar’s uncle (also named Eddy). They came with bags full of cash, checks, and receipts.
Antar’s uncle used the cash to pay off expenses and then put the rest in a briefcase. When the briefcase got too full, he stored the cash under a radiator. And when there was no more room under the radiator, he started bringing the money to Antar’s father’s house, where he hid as much as $3.5m — ~$11m today — in a false ceiling.
Eddie Antar kept close tabs, usually calling his uncle twice a day to see how much money they were skimming. A family member later said Eddie Antar received ⅔ of the skimmed cash and Sam M. Antar, his father, the other third.
The skimming strategy allowed Antar to not only hoard cash but also evade sales taxes. His employees were also paid off the books so Crazy Eddie could avoid payroll taxes.
“There was a culture at Crazy Eddie that said nothing should go to the government,” wrote Antar’s cousin Sam E. Antar, who eventually became CFO at Crazy Eddie and has detailed his work in a series of blog posts.
As Antar’s business empire expanded, he vacationed in Europe and South America and bought properties at the Jersey Shore and in Miami. He churned through cars like they were clothes, once abandoning a vehicle on the Garden State Parkway and leaving it to burn.
He also kept as much as $200k in cash stashed under his bed at any given time.
“Money was always in the house,” said Debbie Rosen Antar, Antar’s first wife, to investigators in the late 1980s. “And if I needed it and I asked him, he would say, ‘Go underneath the bed and take what you need.’”
Despite the success, Antar managed to keep a low profile, content with letting people think Jerry Carroll was Crazy Eddie and declining almost all interviews. If his workers talked to the press, it was usually on the condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to say something stupid and end up on the wrong side of their boss.
They knew the key to staying on Antar’s good side. As one employee told the New York Daily News in 1984, “He respects loyalty.”
A rising stock and an angry family
Why would a company built on a family fraud go public?
Somebody told Antar he could keep making millions skimming cash, but he could make tens of millions if the company traded on the stock market.
Strangely, Crazy Eddie’s fraudulent history gave it an advantage. To provide the illusion of quickly increasing profits ahead of the IPO, the Antars simply reduced the amount of cash they were skimming. With millions more on the ledger instead of in the family’s pockets, the company’s profits looked more impressive.
As a public company, Crazy Eddie then made up for its inability to skim cash by initiating new fraud streams.
The company embellished its inventories by millions of dollars to appear better-stocked and better positioned for profits.
The Antar family laundered profits it had previously skimmed — and deposited in foreign bank accounts — back into the company to inflate revenues.
Outside the family, nobody had a clue something fishy was going on, least of all Crazy Eddie’s auditors.
To conceal the fraud, employees shuffled excess merchandise from store to store or borrowed it from friendly competitors to make inventories appear larger. As an added protection, Sam E. Antar says he distracted the auditors, who were mostly single men, by setting them up on dinner dates with Crazy Eddie’s most attractive workers.
From 1984 to 1987, Crazy Eddie grew to 43 stores and its stock price reached $79. Antar and other family members sold most of their stock at elevated levels, cashing in a purported ~$90m and fooling investors.
“We arrogantly committed our crimes simply because we could and we had no empathy whatsoever for our victims,” Sam E. Antar later wrote.
But some family members were not pleased with their take.
Despite enriching their pockets with stock and above-market salaries, tensions had flared for years, with Eddie Antar’s father and 2 brothers jealous of his status as family patriarch.
The turning point was on New Year’s Eve in 1983, a few months before the IPO. Antar’s father tipped off his daughter and Antar’s wife that Antar would be on a date with his mistress in Manhattan. They caught him in the act, and a street fight nearly erupted.
Antar’s father later described the blowup as the “New Year’s Eve Massacre.” It created a simmering family feud that boiled over when the business went south.
In 1987, Crazy Eddie started losing money as the electronics industry grew more competitive and it struggled to manage its many new stores. The stock sank like a rock, to below its IPO value. In November 1987, a hostile investment group led by Houston entrepreneur Elias Zinn pounced, purchasing Crazy Eddie.
As Antar’s cousin later recounted, Antar thought the sale would at least give them an opportunity to pin the fraud on the new owners. But Zinn immediately discovered $45m of listed inventory was missing. Stores soon closed, and the company went bankrupt in 1989.
Worse for Antar was that 2 disgruntled ex-employees teamed up with Antar’s father to lodge a fraud complaint with the SEC. The FBI started sniffing around, too.
In February 1990, Antar fled the country.
Over the next 2 years, he used forged Brazilian and Israeli passports to globe-trot through Tel Aviv, Zurich, São Paulo, and the Cayman Islands, with an estimated $60m at his disposal.
The ‘Darth Vader of capitalism’
On June 24, 1992, Israeli police stationed themselves outside a luxurious home in a suburb of Tel Aviv. Authorities, including the US Marshals and Interpol, had grown suspicious after detecting a money transfer between 2 names believed to be aliases for Antar.
The police arrested Antar and raided the home, uncovering $60k in cash, passports, birth certificates, and paperwork for forming a corporation without a lawyer.
Antar was on the run for ~2 years before getting caught in Israel. (Wikimedia Commons)
Antar faced a federal trial a year later for bilking investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars in multiple stock and bond sales.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, headed by future George W. Bush cabinet member Michael Chertoff, revealed details that seemed to be plucked from a Scorsese film. Antar had…
Assumed names like David Boris Levy and Harry P. Shalom
Created Liberian shell companies
Strapped $100k to his chest before boarding a plane
The press compared the Antars to the “Addams Family” and to the Ewing family from the TV show Dallas.
Still, the case was hardly a slam dunk. There was basically no paper trail, and inventory fraud isn’t the easiest concept to grasp. Antar might have escaped a conviction if he hadn’t eschewed what he expected out of his own employees: loyalty.
Before fleeing the US, Antar had abandoned Sam E. Antar, who was facing enormous pressure from the feds because he had orchestrated much of the fraud as leader of Crazy Eddie’s finances. Sam E. Antar ended up pleading guilty to 2 offenses in exchange for testifying and was the prosecution’s star witness in a trial that stretched on for weeks.
At sentencing, the US Attorney’s Office asked for — and received — the maximum allowable sentence of 12.5 years. Antar was ordered to repay $121m to investors.
“He is a kind of Darth Vader of capitalism,” Chertoff said at the sentencing hearing.
But his fraud didn’t involve any special mastery of the laws. Anyone could have done it.
“It was completely brazen,” Paul Weissman, who also prosecuted Antar for the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, told The Hustle. “It was about as basic as you can get.”
Antar was released from prison in 1999.
After his release, he apologized to and reconnected with Larry Weiss, his former marketing director, and they launched CrazyEddie.com. In an entirely different world for consumer electronics, there was no comeback for Antar. The business venture failed.
Out of prison and no longer in the limelight, he agreed to interviews every so often before his 2016 death. Antar, who deflected blame for his crimes onto his family, thought of himself as more of a trendsetter than a fraudster.
“Everybody knows Crazy Eddie. What can I tell you?” he told The Record in 2012. “I changed the business. I changed the whole business
So many of family and friends are talking about HBO’s “The Gilded Age” that I decided to copy and paste an article that Town&Country recently published about the palatial mansions still standing from that era in NYC. While some of us know the history of these landmarks, the following story gives us a renewed appreciation of several magnificent buildings.
They may no longer house robber barons but several of the era’s important architectural gems have survived to this day.
In case HBO’s The Gilded Agehasn’t made clear enough already, there was once upon a time, circa 1880s, when the avenues and boulevards of New York City glittered with rows upon rows of palatial mansions built for robber barons named Vanderbilt, Astor, and Carnegie. In the century and a half since, the city’s landscape may have changed—and titans of industry today may prefer gleaming pied-à-terre castles in the sky—but a number sumptuous relics of the Gilded Age still stand.
Grand estates that once housed and entertained tycoons of steel, railroads, finance, and oil have since been transformed into cultural centers (see: the Park Avenue Armory, the Argentinian consulate, the Ukrainian Institute of America), museums (the Cooper Hewitt, the Jewish Museum, the Morgan Library), hotels (the Lotte Palace, the Waldorf Astoria), even jewelry stores (Fifth Avenue’s Cartier flagship).
With the season finale of The Gilded Age, living vicariously through the fictional lives of the van Rhijns and Russells will have to wait until season two, though a real life taste of Old New York splendor can be had whenever, courtesy of a number of significant mansions that have stood the test of time—below, a small sampling.
The Plant House
By the turn of the 20th century, the nouveau riche Vanderbilts had taken over the stretch of Fifth Avenue between 51st and 57th streets by building colossal palaces. There was the French Renaissance and Gothic style castle that Alva and William K. Vanderbilt (who inspired the Russells of The Gilded Age) commissioned in 1882 on the corner of 52nd Street. Next door that same year, William H. Vanderbilt (William K.’s father) built his Doric and Corinthian style Triple Palace. And also in 1882, Cornelius II built what would become the city’s largest single family house on the block that is now Bergdorf’s. In the early 1900s, the family sold one of their plots to Morgan Plant, son of railroad tycoon Henry Plant, who, by 1905, officially became a neighbor on Vanderbilt Row with a mansion that is now the iconic Cartier maison—in 1917, Louis and Pierre Cartier bought the Plant residence for $100 in cash and a double-stranded pearl necklace valued at the time at $1 million.
The Carnegie Mansion
Rather than join his peers who were clustered farther south along Fifth Avenue, Andrew Carnegie ventured north in search of land large enough to accommodate a garden. He found it, on 91st and Fifth, and oversaw the construction of a 64-room English Georgian country home in the middle of Manhattan. But for all its bucolic charms, the mansion was far ahead of its time: it was the first American residence to have a steel frame and among the first to have a private Otis Elevator and central heating. Carnegie moved in in 1902 and lived there until his death in 1919. In the 1970s, his eponymous philanthropic corporation gave the estate to the Smithsonian and it became the home of the Cooper-Hewitt in 1976.
The Henry Clay Frick House
By Gilded Age standards steel and railroad magnate Henry Clay Frick arrived later to the NYC real estate scene, around 1912—prior to that he was renting out William H. Vanderbilt’s mansion at 640 Fifth. Still, the estate he commissioned from notable Beaux-Arts architecture firm Carrère and Hasting (designers of the New York Public Library) would go on to have an outsize impact on the city, not only for the neoclassical structure itself but also for the immense collection of Old Master paintings, French porcelain, and 18th-century decorative arts he left behind (which now makes up the Frick Collection).
The Morgan House
Before New York’s richest migrated farther uptown and took claim of the Upper East Side, their preferred playground was Murray Hilla—after all it was where Caroline Astor, the Mrs. Astor, lived. Among the important homes in the neighborhood were a trio of brownstones built in the 1850s for the Phelps, Stokes, and Dodge families. Between 1881 and 1904, banker John Pierpont Morgan purchased the properties, using one as his residence (which was demolished in 1928), razing another for a garden, and gifting the last, a 45-room brownstone, to his son Jack. Today, it’s part of the Morgan Library.
The Morgan Library
As his fortunes reached ever more stratospheric heights, J.P. Morgan developed a passion for investing in rare books and manuscripts. By the early 20th century, his collections had far outgrown his private residence and so he commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design a library next door, to be built according to his exacting standards. “He wanted the most perfect structure that human hands could erect and was willing to pay whatever it cost,” the Wall Street Journal reported in 1906.
The Metropolitan Club
J.P. Morgan is also the one to thank for the Metropolitan Club, a private institution he formed in 1891 along with the likes of William K. Vanderbilt and James A. Roosevelt (an uncle of future president Teddy Roosevelt) as original members. Today, the McKim, Mead & White-designed edifice still serves its founding ethos, though now the club admits women.
The Sinclair House
Still one of the most unique landmarks in New York City, the Sinclair House, named for one of its later owners (oil baron Harry Sinclair), was built in the late 1800s in the French Renaissance style by C.P.H. Gilbert. Its Gothic arches, gargoyle heads, and intricate details impressed both the man who commissioned the palatial urban chateau, industrialist Isaac Fletcher, and architecture critics. Since 1955, the property, which commands the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th street, has been the home of the Ukrainian Institute of America.
The Villard Mansions
Shortly before he went bankrupt, railroad magnate Henry Villard commissioned not one but six Italian Renaissance style residences on Madison Avenue. Loosely inspired by his favorite palazzos in Rome, they were built around the one percenters’ design bragging right of the time: a courtyard. After his change in fortune, the homes went through a long list of owners before it turned into the centerpiece of the Palace Hotel (now the Lotte New York Palace) in the ’70s.
The Seventh Regiment Armory
Gilded Age one percenters had a lot to protect and one of the ways to do so was to build armories for volunteer regiments. As high society migrated from the Lower East Side to Murray Hill to the Upper East Side, so too did the headquarters of the 7th New York Militia Regiment, which was known as the Silk Stocking Regiment because of its disproportionate number of members who were part of the Gilded Age elite. In 1880, it found its last permanent home on Park Avenue with a Gothic style building that featured, among other things, a library designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and a Veterans Room with ornate hand carved wood paneling. Today it’s the Park Avenue Armory, a center now more for the rich to shop at art and design fairs than to plot defense strategies.
The Waldorf Astoria
While the current iteration of the Waldorf Astoria is a glittering Art Deco grande dame that is currently celebrating its 90th anniversary, the hotel’s real roots stretch back to the Gilded Age. The first Waldorf-Astoria, built in the 1890s as two neighboring hotels on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, was the result of a feud between members of the Astor family. One might also venture so far as to say the hotel had a hand in the one percenters’ great migration farther uptown: William Waldorf Astor, at odds with his aunt Caroline over the title of the Mrs. Astor (after having inherited his father’s holdings to become head of the family, he believed it belonged to his wife Mamie), took over his father’s estate next to his aunt’s and proceeded to build an eponymous luxury hotel with the express purpose of overshadowing Mrs. Astor’s mansion. Caroline, in turn, decided Murray Hill no longer fashionable for her set and simply moved uptown. While the original Waldorf no longer exists—the Astors sold the land to the developers of the Empire State Building—its most famous elements, like the iconic Peacock Alley, have lived on in the Waldorf 2.0
Thank you from Fountainhead Arts to John DeFaro, Zachary Belil, Shawn Clarke, Harry Redlich, Ruth Steinik Greenberg, Howard Greenberg and Eliot Hess for joining us last night as we celebrate these fabulous women artists. Let me know if you want to attend next month’s events.
My Eighth Week As The Miami Life Editor Of The Three Tomatoes
Miami Life Editor
The Three Tomatoes
If you want to have a speedboat experience in Miami that you will never forget, I have just the boat for you. I couldn’t believe my ears. I just heard that one of the most famous restaurants in Miami is coming back to life. Do you need a good stretch? Well there’s a new concept in Miami called the Stretch Zone Method. And shh…my husband Eliot and I went behind the gates at one of the most private beach clubs in Miami, nestled in these condos in the picture above. I’m sharing the secrets, but don’t tell anyone.
A Thrill You Will Remember Forever
If you like thrills, I have just the boat for you. It’s called the Thriller. You may find yourself holding on for dear life as you speed along the Miami waterways like they did in the TV show called Miami Vice. The Thriller is the only sightseeing tour boat that goes out to the ocean and speeds along South Beach. That sight alone is worth the trip to Miami.
I just heard that The News Café in Miami is coming back to life. It quietly closed during Covid. Most folks on the beach were devastated. It was much more than a restaurant. It was an institution that represented the vitality of the city of Miami. Everyone went there to see and be seen. It’s reopening on Ocean Drive at the newly renamed Tony Hotel South Beach, exactly where it was before. I can’t wait.
Someone read my mind. I just received a promotional piece from Stretch Zone Method, a new concept in Miami, that said “stretch practitioners will move my muscles in ways that will achieve lasting gains.” Now that sounded very interesting considering I sit at my computer all day. My muscles need a good workout on a consistent basis.
I’m taking you behind the scenes at one of the most private beach clubs in Miami. The Patio is located at the Continuum Condominiums, and very few residents or visitors to Miami ever get to see it. You have to be invited by someone who lives in one of the two luxury towers which are situated next to the beach at the tip of South Pointe Park. It’s one of the most beautiful settings you have ever seen.
Maurice Zarmati is one of the original Carnival Cruise line VIP’s. He also happens to be my neighbor. I really lucked out when he agreed to do this podcast interview. He has been busy celebrating 50 years of the Carnival Cruisecompany.
He started in 1972 as Southeast regional representative and ultimately became VP worldwide sales, before going on to lead Costa Cruises of North America as president and CEO. Maurice has seen the cruise industry grow as the ships keep getting bigger and bigger AHOY MAURICE— WELCOME ABOARD THE LIDO DECK OF THE SS LYING ON THE BEACH
A subvariant of omicron is spreading across Europe. How will it hit the U.S.?
A rise in Covid-19 cases throughout Western Europe has some officials wondering if the U.S. is due for a new surge. Here’s what the experts are saying:
Cases climb in Europe
In the U.K., France, and across Western Europe, infections have sharply risen through March. Last week, Germany reached a new daily record of nearly 300,000 cases, while it’s estimated that one in 20 people in the U.K. are now infected.
Throughout the pandemic, a surge in Europe has typically preceded a similar rise in the U.S., putting public health experts on high alert.
The threat of BA.2
A subvariant of omicron, called BA.2, is fueling the outbreak overseas. Researchers estimate it’s between 30 to 50 percent more contagious than the earlier version of Omicron (BA.1), but is not thought to cause more severe illness. What’s still not clear is if a case of BA.1 — which infected millions of Americans this winter — provides protection from BA.2.
Where do we stand in the U.S.?
Case numbers stateside have continued to drop, but BA.2 is making up a growing percentage of infections. The subvariant accounted for 23 percent of all new cases in the U.S., according to CDC data from mid-March. The rates are higher in the Northeast — and in Connecticut BA.2 is already thought to be the dominant strain.
What do the experts expect?
The subvariant’s impact in the U.S. will depend on a number of factors — from how much states and cities relax mask-wearing and other pandemic precautions in the coming weeks to rates of natural immunity, experts say. Still, given how contagious BA.2 has proven to be and how much lower vaccination rates are in the U.S. compared to countries like Germany and the U.K., some experts are predicting a rise in infections.
Dr. Fauci said Sunday on ABC’s This Week he expects an “uptick” but not a surge. It is “no time at all to declare victory,” Fauci said. “And we don’t want to be caught flat-footed on that.”
U.N. Secretary General Guterres warns goal to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C ‘is on life support’ – The Washington Post
Sex after 60! Can you wear your clothes? That may be a funny question to many of us but to those who are experiencing a second chapter in their lives, after losing a long time spouse or partner, this is serious because they may not like exposing themselves to a new person. Only someone like Susan Warner can tell you what to do. She has been through it all and today she is smiling.
Gadget for Your Little One w/ Calvin Cato | Gadget Game Show
Have you noticed that a lot of people are acting crazier than ever? Is it because of the full moon? My client, Dr. Arthur Bregman, a psychiatrist, gives you his opinion on how, lunar cycles affect human behavior.
Dr. B, (as longtime patients and friends call him) was the Chief of Psychiatry of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for several decades and now runs his own private psychiatric practice, Bregman Medical Group.
Dr. B. has become internationally known through his podcast “The Breakdown with Dr. B,” where he conducts interviews and discusses various mental health topics with co-host Linda Corley
We are so happy for Charo Oquet who had her steel installation unveiled tonight on the grounds of the Bass Museum. More then 50 fans showed up to applaud her work. Eliot and I love her art, love her look and love her heart. Listen to her speech. She lives in the moment. Photos by Eliot Hess.
Rabbi Marc Philippe and his wife (Rabbetzin) Valerie, hosted a wonderful Purim celebration last night in their backyard. Over 50 people attended because the gathering was very spiritual. The Rabbi and Valerie have started a spiritual and cultural center to offer everyone a new modern way to reach your inner soul.