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John O'Hurley, J. Peterman and success:
Yada, yada, yada

John O'HurleyYou know him as J. Peterman, the character he played on "Seinfeld," purveyor of floridly written mail-order items who waxed poetic about clothing and exotic destinations. He introduced himself to Elaine by noting her coat's "deep by-swing vents," perfect for jumping onto a gondola. The dialogue sounded like it was written by Rudyard Kipling himself, and for four seasons it was delivered expertly by John O'Hurley's baritone voice.

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Before landing squarely on prime time, O'Hurley sharpened his performance chops on the soap-opera circuit and on the stage as a song and dance man. He's one of television's busiest hosts, and he has since parlayed his Peterman success into a string of Xerox commercials and a ton of other deals. He has a travel/adventure show taped for the Travel Channel, in addition to a new fall sitcom for UPN.

Whew, and if all that wasn't enough, the man is a savvy investor. He's a principal in two asset-management companies, and blurring the lines between reality and fiction, O'Hurley is part owner of the real J. Peterman company.

Bankrate: You became one of the investors who brought the J. Peterman catalog company back to life after it filed for bankruptcy. How did that happen?

John O'Hurley: Because of the parody on Seinfeld, John Peterman and I were kind of joined at the wrists and ankles. And he called me up one day, and said do you want to do this together, and he was able to buy back all the intellectual rights from the controlling company at the time, and the name, and he and I put the company back together with a few investors. He and I now own it together and making a very good go of it and turning a profit even in the first year.

Bankrate: Still a catalog company ...

John O'Hurley: Still a catalog company. But leaner and meaner than the first time around.

Bankrate: And that's not the only company you're involved in. You're also active in a venture capital company called Round One Investments? And there's another one ... are you actually a closet Wall St. guy, and acting's just your day job?

John O'Hurley: (Laughs) No, it's still my primary focus in life, but I do enjoy business, the creativity of it. I'm also a partner in Heritage Capital out of Atlanta. And one of our projects is buying up radio stations and flipping the media to Spanish-language programming. Round One is a tech incubator, if the idea still exists. We're working on the next wave of what television is going to become, a fusion of a set-top box and the Internet, merging your computer, television and Internet into one entity.

Bankrate: What other holdings do you have?

John O'Hurley: There are a couple of great buys. Summit America Television (SATH) is one of my big holdings now, they've got five television stations in top 20 markets, and another one is Bisys Group (BSG), an outsourcing group for the insurance industry. They're extraordinary bargains now, and when the economy turns around, these two companies will really benefit.

Bankrate: Back to what you call your "primary focus." What are you working on now?

John O'Hurley: In the fall, Loni Anderson and I are doing a TV series for UPN called "The Mullets," complete with mullet haircuts. I play the host of a TV game show, and Loni is my trophy wife. Unfortunately, she comes with a little bit of baggage, two sons who work as roofers, who are heavily into WWF. I basically try to assimilate them into my pompous and arrogant lifestyle.

Bankrate: You had such a hilarious role on "Seinfeld," do new projects fall short?

John O'Hurley: Well, actually, "The Mullets" really gives me chance to sink my teeth into something again. I love to play self-involved characters who just don't get it.

Bankrate: Do you still get stopped on the street by "Seinfeld" fans?

John O'Hurley: About 300 times a day, and all over the world. It has changed my life in ways that are inconceivable. And now that I own the company, I'm very happy to keep that franchise alive.

-- Posted: June 6, 2003




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