Hot Product

World-class embezzler Gary Lewellyn rebounds with a fast-selling treatment for A.D.D.

Lewellyn appears equally unconcerned about his battles with Sahley, the San Antonio nutritionist who helped developed KidsPLEX. Sahley, who runs the Pain & Stress Center, a private clinic in San Antonio, claims she discovered on her own accord in 1993 that the adult food supplements Performance Nutrition markets to athletes also help children who have nutritional deficiencies. When Sahley called Lewellyn to tell him she was using his product, they decided together to alter the formula slightly and develop a food supplement for children, calling it KidsPLEX.

For several years, Sahley sold the product from her clinic, sharing the profits with the company. In turn, she agreed to appear in Performance Nutrition's promotional materials endorsing the product.

But the friendly business link between Lewellyn and Sahley disintegrated in late 1995, she says, when she discovered that Lewellyn intended to start claiming KidsPLEX alone could resolve the symptoms linked to A.D.D. and could serve as a substitute for Ritalin.

"Everything was rocking until 60 Minutes and 20/20 ran stories," recalls Sahley. "He wanted me to call them and tell them I have the answer [to A.D.D.]." She says she refused to give KidsPLEX that kind of blanket endorsement. Her frustration grew to outrage, she says, when Lewellyn waited until 5:20 p.m. the day before his KidsPLEX ad ran in USA Today to fax her a galley. The ad included Performance Nutrition's telephone number, not Sahley's.

"I will not be party to your deceptive, misleading misrepresentations," Sahley wrote to Lewellyn in a March 18, 1996, letter, after the company ran the USA Today ad suggesting KidsPLEX as an "option" for Ritalin takers.

But Lewellyn says Sahley's real beef centers on money, not misrepresentation. Sahley has objected to his marketing, he says, because she wants to continue selling the product exclusively from her clinic, hoarding the profits. He wanted to begin wider distribution as the demand for KidsPLEX grew. (To that end, the company signed a contract in May to sell it retail in the nationwide GNC health-food chain.)

To replace Sahley's endorsement of KidsPLEX, Lewellyn has found other doctors--including Doris Rapp at the Environmental Allergy Center in Buffalo, New York, who helped write the USA Today ad, and Eugene DeBlasio, a pediatrician in upstate New York who is running a controlled study about the efficacy of KidsPLEX for the A.D.D. afflicted.

Lewellyn has also filed a claim in Dallas district court seeking a permanent injunction that would bar Sahley from "interfering in any way" with the company's rebroadcast of her image in its infomercials. It also would require that Sahley leave undisturbed any rebroadcasts of a favorable news segment about KidsPLEX produced by KDFW-TV Channel 4, the local Fox station. (That same Fox station entered earlier this year into a six-figure contract with Performance Nutrition to broadcast its infomercials during daytime hours. But KDFW health reporter John Hammerly says there was no connection between his report and the contract. "That's news to me," he says. "I didn't know anything about it.")

At the moment, Lewellyn's relaxed attitude about Sahley's potential harm to his claims for KidsPLEX seems justified. Lewellyn's in-house public-relations specialist, Wynne, has persuaded 28 different radio and television stations nationwide to run editorial coverage about KidsPLEX in the past few months, all of it exceedingly favorable. The company sales rose from $736,000 for the second quarter in 1995 to $1.59 million for the same period this year. That increase, Lewellyn says, is largely attributable to KidsPLEX.

"If he had not gotten into trouble," Lewellyn's former criminal-defense lawyer Barrett says about his client, "he would have been worth a lot of money.

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