Victor Potamkin, 83, Died Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami
Victor Potamkin made his mark as a car dealer in New York through aggressive discounts and marketing. His specialty was deep discounting.
He launched his business career during the Great Depression by selling chicken parts under the slogan, “Be Smart, Buy a Part.” Additionally, he supported Jersey Joe Walcott to become heavyweight champion.
Early Life and Education
Victor Potamkin, known for creating the world’s largest Cadillac auto dealership, died Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami at age 83.
He was born in Philadelphia, dropped out of Wharton and sold chickens during the Great Depression before opening a Lincoln Mercury dealership in Wissinoming – a Jewish enclave in Northeast Philadelphia – where it proved highly successful. Due to General Motors allowing him to run the Cadillac franchise under their auspices. By offering discounted prices that attracted buyers from far beyond Manhattan he increased annual sales by 600%!
Potamkin sold his Manhattan dealership to former race car driver Roger Penske in 1987; however, sales suffered substantially following October’s stock market crash, prompting Mr. Potamkin to regain possession in 1991.
Victor Potamkin began selling fish and chicken in Philadelphia after dropping out of Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania during the Great Depression, then managing Jersey Joe Walcott (a boxing superstar). Soon thereafter he ventured into automotive sales by opening up a Lincoln Mercury dealership in 1947 despite facing significant Jewish population resistance over Henry Ford’s antisemitism; to address this conflict he gifted one to Chaim Weizmann (first president of Israel) followed by an extensive photo op for increased publicity.
Potamkin was an expert at aggressive marketing and deep discounting. Today, his sons Robert and Alan carry on his legacy as one of the largest auto dealer groups in America and sponsor the Potamkin Prize for Alzheimer’s research.
Achievement and Honors
Victor Potamkin was a renowned businessman who established one of the largest Cadillac auto dealerships worldwide. An innovator himself, Victor embraced technology and was always searching for innovative ways to streamline his businesses and streamline processes. Additionally, his portfolio expanded across other industries, demonstrating his versatility as an entrepreneur.
The Potamkin Prize, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize of Alzheimer’s research, was first instituted in 1988 in memory of Luba Potamkin – wife of famed entrepreneur Victor Potamkin who was diagnosed with Pick’s disease in 1978 and passed away soon after being honored with this prestigious honor.
This year’s Potamkin Prize went to Dr. Paul Taylor of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, who has made significant strides in phase separation research that may eventually provide treatments for Pick’s and other degenerative brain disorders. He was recognized for his groundbreaking efforts.
Victor Potamkin, best known for turning around an ailing Manhattan Cadillac dealership using deep discounts and aggressive advertising, passed away Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami at age 83.
Potamkin was an incredible salesman from Philadelphia who quit Wharton during the Great Depression to sell chicken and fish parts by piece – an approach he coined “Be Smart, Buy a Part.”
Potamkin took over a struggling Cadillac dealership in 1972 and aggressively advertised his low prices across television and print media. Although he sold it to retired race car driver Roger Penske in 1987, Potamkin returned when Penske declared bankruptcy a few months later; today his retailing empire in Philadelphia encompasses 50 Cadillac franchises from New York to Florida.
Automotive and real estate businessman Michael Green built his wealth through hard work, dedication, and persistence. Additionally, he was an ardent philanthropist, making donations to numerous charitable causes, including Miami Museum of Science and Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Potamkin established Prestige Imports dealer network to sell exotic and luxury cars, which grew and eventually became one of the nation’s largest car dealers.
By cutting his prices, he was able to attract buyers from far beyond Manhattan while increasing volume enough to cover high Manhattan real estate costs. Annual sales jumped from 2,000 to 6,000 annually – making his Manhattan store the world’s largest Cadillac dealer.
Potamkin sold his dealership in 1987 to Roger Penske, who attempted to restore more genteel selling practices. Potamkin later purchased back the franchise.