K-tel International is an "As-Seen-On-TV" company, which is most noted for its compilation music albums, such as "The Super Hits" series, "The Dynamic Hits" series and "The Number One Hits" series. It is also known for "The Record Selector," "The Micro-Roast," "The Tote-a-Tune portable stereo," and many other products.
The company has been in business since the late 1960s and is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They also have subsidiaries or other controlled entities in the U.S., the UK and Germany. In the UK the company is known as "K-tel UK Limited." In the U.S. and Canada it is known as "K-tel International," with US-distributed compilation albums distributed fromPlymouth, MN.
The founder of K-Tel was Philip Kives. Kives, a demonstration salesman who had previously sold cookware door-to-door and in a department store, used television advertising in 1962 to sell Teflon-coated frying pans to a large-scale audience. Kives bought and marketed a number of other products from Seymour Popeil, father of Ronco founder Ron Popeil, such as the "Dial-o-matic," a type of food slicer that allowed the user to "dial in" the thickness of slices produced, the Veg-O-Matic, and the "Feather Touch Knife." The combination of inexpensive goods, mail-order distribution and a simple sales pitch were a novel combination in television advertising in the early 1960s. Kives took his "Feather Touch Knife" on the road to Australia starting in August 1965 and by Christmas had sold one million knives with a net profit of one dollar a knife.
K-Tel was formally founded in 1968. After a successful decade in the 1970s, the company expanded rapidly both through acquisitions in its core area of business and diversification into other areas. Kives' cousin Raymond Kives was president of K-Tel USA from 1967 to 1977, and president of K-Tel Europe from 1977 to 1984. K-Tel diversified in its early years, and Raymond began to concentrate on building the USA market and music sales while Phil concentrated on housewares. The company acquired rival Candlelite Records in 1980, and also formed subsidiaries in areas such as real estate and oil exploration. By 1984, the high-risk ventures had sapped the company's fortunes and K-Tel was unable to meet the payroll. The publicly-traded U.S. entity K-Tel International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Mickey Elfenbein, Mr. Kives' nephew was appointed CEO of K-Tel International in 1993 Elfenbein remained CEO of the company into the late 1990s, during which period the company achieved a resurgence in worldwide sales primarily of music-related products and had a successful NASDAQ IPO trading under the symbol KTEL. Elfenbein was recognized by Business Week Magazine in 1994 as the CEO of the 7th best publicly traded company in the US, based on growth and profitability.