ST. PETERSBURG — Terry P. Loebel, the advertising pioneer who brought the familiar blue Valpak coupon mailings into millions of households, died at his St. Petersburg home Saturday following ongoing health issues.
He was 71.
Loebel, who was born in Milwaukee, was an unemployed auto worker when he moved with his wife, Pat, and two children to Florida around 1965.
Working out of a two-bedroom house in St. Petersburg, he began mailing coupons to Clearwater households in 1968. Valpak eventually swelled to a direct mail marketing giant, distributing more than 20 billion coupons a year throughout North America on behalf of more than 60,000 advertisers.
Loebel sold the company in 1985 to a group of investors who later sold it to Cox Enterprises.
As a subsidiary of Cox Target Media, Valpak has had a major presence in Pinellas County, with about 850 employees at its $220 million plant off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg and its Largo headquarters.
Cox Target Media president Michael Vivio called Loebel "a classic entrepreneur who started with a $500 loan from a close family friend."
"Over the years, he saw it grow into an international business that continues to thrive 44 years later," Vivio said. "Even though Terry sold his interest in Valpak more than 25 years ago, his vision continued to inspire the company."
Loebel's last company appearance came in 2008 when he spoke at the company's annual sales conference, known as Coupon U, on Valpak's 40th anniversary. The company plans to recognize and honor the company founder at this week's Coupon U in Las Vegas.
Loebel is survived by his son, Greg Loebel of St. Petersburg; his daughter, Kimberly Loebel Ellison of Tallahassee; and four grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic or to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. Family and close friends are planning private services.
Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected]