Finding Joy in Righting NJOY

Inside a vaping brand's rebirth and the broken trust it must now restore

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Douglas Teitelbaum has turned companies around before. Can he do the same for NJOY?

Douglas Teitelbaum brings companies back from the brink.

His success stories include names such as Texaco, NextWave Telecom and Barneys New York, and businesses ranging from cellular networks to Las Vegas casinos. Now, as chairman and CEO of NJOY LLC, Teitelbaum is hoping to work the same kind of magic on the electronic-cigarette maker as it emerges from a 2016 bankruptcy.

But will it work this time around?

No one wanted NJOY to fail. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company pioneered the look and feel of today’s e-cigarette and made vaping palatable to the retail channel and, more specifically, convenience.

Unfortunately, critical business decisions led to a financial spiral that forced NJOY to declare bankruptcy, leaving hundreds of retailers with unsupported, unmovable inventory.

But for Teitelbaum, history is no deterrent. Sold on NJOY’s products as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, Teitelbaum became the re-emerging company’s head cheerleader and financial bedrock.

He spoke with CSP recently about NJOY’s rebirth and the broken trust he must now carefully, methodically restore.

Q: Why do you think you’ll be successful?

A: I have a history of working with distressed companies and using disruption to turn them around. It’s in my nature to look at companies, focus on strengths, do a deep dive and not fool myself. With NJOY, there’s a history of disruption, and today, I still see an opportunity to disrupt cigarettes.

Q: How so?

A: Because of what NJOY introduced into the market, [traditional] cigarettes will be a thing of the past. Today, our proposition is getting smokers to switch. What matters most is when a smoker wants to make that move. To do that, e-cigarettes have to be in Walgreens, they have to be in 7-Eleven. They have to be ubiquitous. We have that. So on that point, we have a huge advantage. Second, it’s critical how you communicate with smokers about how to quit. You talk about the studies.

You talk about denial. Then there’s a tilt [in mindset] and you talk about not having guilt about smoking or the smell. This group deserves empathy. These are people whose lives will change dramatically through switching.

Q: How has the product changed since NJOY’s return?

A: We are in next generations with our products. They have an easy form factor. Then there’s our smooth blend. It’s a different chemistry, one that doesn’t dry the throat. It’s a smooth experience.

Q: What about rebuilding retailer relationships?

A: To anyone who’s worried about our financial situation, we are well-funded. We’re ready to rebuild our reputation, ready to right the wrongs. But there’s a reason we’re in retail. There’s a reason people are still calling us. In our biggest chains, we’re a large percentage of this category. That’s because of our product stickiness. It satisfies better. It has a deeply rooted scientific background and purpose. Because of all that, we have a real chance at helping people switch to vapor. I understand the smoker well, and I love helping people make the switch.