Segel, who founded about 20 companies in fields such as publishing, minting, photography, aviation, software, hospitality, and TV broadcasting, is best known for creating The Franklin Mint and QVC, the third largest e-commerce company in the world, behind only Amazon and Walmart.
After studying HSN, one of the first TV shopping networks, Segel in 1986 decided to elevate the genre by insisting on truth in advertising and accurately describing products rather than simply hyping them. He knew the value of customer service and ingrained in employees the mantra, “Give customers more than they expect.”
QVC aired for the first time on Nov. 24, 1986 as a result of partnerships with 58 cable systems in 20 states. The network today reaches 380 million homes worldwide through 15 TV networks, 11 web sites with more than 2.5 billion digital sessions, and interactions with close to 10 million Facebook fans.
Segel retired as QVC chairman in 1993, but continued to serve as an executive consultant to QVC management until 2013. At the time of his death he was no longer actively involved with the company, but retained the title of QVC founder and chairman emeritus. He remained curious and active, participating in the funding and creation of new products and companies, including HairRx LLC in 2014, featuring customized shampoos and conditioners.
“Joe Segel was a remarkable leader, entrepreneur, marketer, teacher and friend,” said Mike George, president and chief executive officer of Qurate Retail Inc., which is comprised of eight leading retail brands. “I’ve had the privilege to know and learn from Joe during my 14 years with QVC and Qurate Retail. He was a visionary whose ideas changed the way the world shops. He instilled the importance of customer focus and putting the customer first in everything we do. These founding values and Joe’s trailblazing spirit are still very much a part who we are today. Joe will be incredibly missed by our company and the broader Philadelphia business community and I’ll be forever grateful for his friendship.”
QVC host Jane Treacy recalled, “One of my favorite Mr. Segel memories is back in those early days, our customer service representatives sat in front of us, right in front of the stage taking your order. Well, we were really busy one Saturday morning. Mr. Segel was watching from home, as he often did, and called to say that there was an awful lot of background noise and it’s a little distracting.
“It was because every single customer representative was on the phone taking orders. Our producer said, ‘That’s the sound of America shopping, Mr. Segel.’ And he said, ‘OK great. Thank you very much, don’t change a thing’ and hung up the phone.”
Segel’s other businesses included everything from luxury hotels to computers. In 1964, at age 33, seeing people lining up at banks to buy the last U.S. silver dollars upon the death of General Douglas MacArthur, sparked the idea for The National Commemorative Society, which created limited-edition, sterling silver coins commemorating heroes such as MacArthur.