In a quiet brand coup, the former New Jersey commodities trader and marketer of Dentax toothbrushes took over Procter & Gamble Co.'s White Cloud bath tissue brand in 1993 for the cost of a trademark filing. P&G had discontinued the brand and abandoned the trademark.
"I think P&G is a smart company," Mr. Gelbart says. "But it doesn't matter how big or small you are. You can easily make mistakes."
Mr. Gelbart, 43, sold White Cloud products in small stores for six years to keep the trademark alive. Then, after selling Dentax to Playtex in 1998 for $10 million, he approached Wal-Mart Stores with a licensing proposal. Last year, White Cloud re-emerged as the retailer's premium private-label bath tissue and diaper brand, backed by national TV advertising for the diapers. GSD&M, Austin, handled the advertising for Wal-Mart Stores.
Wal-Mart and Paper Partners won't release sales figures, but Mr. Gelbart says the brand is doing well.
"I look for opportunities," says Mr. Gelbart. "I'm not saying I'm the scholar of the trademark office or the guy who's going to resurrect every old brand out there . . . but there are a lot of opportunities."
At a recent trade show, Mr. Gelbart got incredulous congratulations from a former P&G executive who now heads another package-goods company. Current P&G employees have been less amused, he says.
"Am I sorry?" he asks. "No. It's business . . . [P&G] came out with Crest Complete toothbrushes when I was already on the market with Dentax. And you know what? They didn't apologize to me for that."