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Now How Much Would You Pay for Ronco? $55 Million

Times Staff Writer

Five decades after slicing and dicing his way into television history, the pitchman who gave America the Chop-O-Matic, the Veg-O-Matic, Mr. Microphone and the Pocket Fisherman has sold something else: his company.

“But wait, there’s more!” Ronco Corp. founder Ron Popeil said Monday. “This means I have the time to invent more products!”

Popeil, who made his first television commercial in the mid-1950s to sell a garden-hose-powered spray gun, has sold the business that made him a multimillionaire to a holding company, Fi-Tek VII Inc., for $55 million.

In two easy payments.

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“It’s $40 million now and $15 million later,” said the 70-year-old Popeil, whose polished pitches made him a pop-culture icon. Comedian Dan Aykroyd parodied Popeil in a “Saturday Night Live” skit hawking the imaginary Bass-O-Matic fish pulverizer. And the Smithsonian Institution includes a Veg-O-Matic II in its collection.

As part of the deal, first reported Monday in the Los Angeles Business Journal, the new Chatsworth-based company will retain the Ronco name and has the right of first refusal over any products Popeil invents. Popeil also will continue to promote his inventions on TV.

“The company is all the assets and my name and face,” said Popeil, who said he sold out to spend more time with his two young children. “And for any of my products they buy, I will be doing the commercial.”

Next from the mind of the man who promoted spray-on hair: a home turkey fryer.

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“It can fry a 20-pound turkey in one hour and 10 minutes, a 14-pound turkey in 45 minutes,” he said.

Isn’t that amazing?


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