Barry Becher, 71, a marketing mastermind and infomercial pioneer best known for bringing Ginsu knives to the American public, died Friday at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., of complications from surgery and kidney cancer, his family said.
Becher and his business partner Ed Valenti are forever linked with Ginsu, the ubiquitous knives shown slicing through tin cans and chipping a wood block.
Millions were sold in the years after the commercial's debut in 1978, with TV audiences mesmerized by images of an exotic-sounding knife that seemed able to cut through anything. The infomercial for the knife made in Ohio promised a 50-year guarantee and "much, much more."
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Becher was running two auto parts stores in Rhode Island when he met Valenti, an advertising account executive for a local television station. They decided they wanted to find a product they could market through an extended TV commercial, and Becher found a mohair-bristled paint pad that prevented splatter and cut work times.
They produced it themselves through a joint company initially run out of Becher's garage. When their first two-minute commercial aired, the Miracle Painter was born.
They sold more than a million units and repeated their winning formula with products others created. The duo rechristened and popularized Armourcote Cookware, the Miracle Slicer, Lusterware Silverware, Royal DuraSteel mixing bowls and the Ginsu knife.
Becher and Valenti eventually shifted their business to become mainly a media buying firm, PriMedia. They helped popularize the use of credit cards and 800 numbers for sales, and their work is seen as a precursor to extended 30-minute infomercials and round-the-clock shopping channels.
-- Times wire reports