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Winnipeg’s Kives Family creates The Philip and Ellie Kives Family Scholarship for research in liver cancer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel

July 10, 2019

Philip Kives, owner and founder of K-Tel International, was a marketing genius and business innovator who redefined the advertising and music industries and created a pop culture legacy. "He went on to write and produce hundreds of low-budget commercials that shouted their way into global consciousness, making K-Tel one of the most successful marketing companies of all time." (Matt Schudel, Washington Post). A dynamic and charismatic man who above all put his family first, Phil accomplished impossible things in life but, at the same time, could relate to people from all walks of life with a genuine interest and zest to learn from them.
Phil Kives was born in 1929 on a small country farm near the town of Oungre, Saskatchewan. His parents had been resettled by the Jewish Colonization Association, first to Turkey, then to Canada. Farm life in the thirties was difficult – drought, grasshoppers and crop failure made farming a challenge and the family lived on welfare for some time, supplemented by the eggs from their chicken and milk, butter and cheese from their cows.
Eight-year-old Phil set up a trap line and began selling and buying pelts and catching gophers – his first efforts as an entrepreneur. By his late twenties he had moved to Winnipeg, where he worked as taxi driver, short-order cook and door-to-door salesman. Within a short time he had his own sales crew selling household goods and was earning enough money to take another entrepreneurial leap: demonstrating products in the Woolworth store on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. In his own words, Phil learned that “only the strong survive”.
Returning to Winnipeg a few years later, Phil decided to try selling on television, where he could reach masses of people at once. His first attempt was a 5-minute live commercial on a Teflon non-stick fry pan. Sales were strong and he quickly spread TV advertising throughout Canada - this 5-minute commercial became the world's first infomercial. Phil had evidence of the power of TV advertising.
Phil’s’ next big move was to market the Feather-Touch Knife on TV in Australia; in a few months he had sold one million knives. A few years later he released his first compilation TV record, 25 Country Hits, for the low price of $3.49. This was followed by 25 Polka Greats, which sold a million and a half copies in the U.S. alone. “In the late 1960s I incorporated my company and gave it the name K-Tel and the rest is history”.
“My biggest selling product was the Miracle Brush, selling 28 million. My biggest music seller was Hooked on Classics, selling over 10 million. In 1979, K-Tel was operating in 34 countries and by the early 1980s K-Tel had sold over half a billion albums world-wide. One of my special moments was being inducted into the (CPSA) Canadian Professional Sales Hall of Fame in 2002. I was honoured for creating the first infomercial and changing the face of advertising worldwide. Today we continue to license our music catalogue to other users. We have set up a digital distribution network with companies like iTunes, where our music is sold all over the world".
Although Philip was very busy with K-Tel, he had many other interests. He was a passionate owner and breeder of race horses for over 40 years. His K-5 Stables made headlines in both the breeding and racing categories and significantly contributed to the Manitoba racing industry. His family shared in the fun and excitement, visiting the horses, talking to the trainers, and observing the newborn colts and fillies. His K-5 Stables was well known at Assiniboine Downs and elseward, thrilling racing fans by winning many prestigious races and awards like the Manitoba Derby and Breeder of the Year (multiple times). The value of his contribution to the racing industry cannot be measured.
Phil Kives had a deep love for his family, his wife Ellie and their three children and often referred to them as his “dream team”. In recognition of their late husband and father, the family has created the Philip and Ellie Kives Family Scholarship, which will provide support for research in liver cancer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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