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Adios ‘Smiling Bob’

By Joanna Cosgrove
Online Editor

The black cloud hanging over Cincinnati, OH-based Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals might be starting to dissipate, as the company was recently sold. The fallout surrounding Berkeley’s Enzyte brand erection pill, championed by the infamous “Smiling Bob” advertisements, landed company founder Steve Warshak in jail for 25 years after being convicted of fraud, money laundering and 93 counts of conspiracy. The company, now in bankruptcy, was also ordered to forfeit $500 million in cash and assets.

In what might be described as the beginning of a new chapter for Berkeley, the company’s inventory, accounts receivable, brand names and other assets were recently purchased for a reported $2.75 million by Pristine Bay LLC, an investment company owned by real estate developer Chuck Kubicki.
According to an article published in Business Courier of Cincinnati, Mr. Kubicki confirmed that he invested in Berkeley to “retain a major tenant in one of his properties.”

“The primary reason I bought it was to save the jobs in Forest Park,” he said. “Other people who were gonna buy it were going to move it out of town. Then, I would have a building over there that I don’t know what to do with. They are a clean, straight-operated company now and I’m going to back management to buy the company.”

But in an interview with Nutraceuticals World, Pristine Bay’s statutory agent, Chance Truemper, the property development coordinator for Cincinnati United Contractors, revealed that although part of the reason behind the purchase was to preserve area jobs, the buyout was more than just a random property investment opportunity.

“Berkeley had a core management group that was dedicated to operating the company in a crystal clean manner that was both profitable, and compliant with all governmental regulations,” he said. “There were 200 employees that would have lost their jobs had the company not been purchased and we would have lost one of our anchor tenants in the Forest Park, OH, building that we own. In this current economic downturn, the loss of jobs would have been devastating.”

Mr. Truemper said Pristine Bay has definitive, long-term plans for Berkeley. “Our plans for the company are to grow the business to include several new products that we have been developing, as well as to add a significant number of jobs to help manage the increased business,” he said.

And what about Smiling Bob? Though his likeness can still be found on Berkeley’s website (albeit with a dead URL to an old TV advertisement), he’s a thing of the past, according to Mr. Truemper. “The new ownership will absolutely move the company away from all of the negativity surrounding its former image,” he said. “The new ownership is led by a prominent business person in the greater Cincinnati area with a proven track record of demanding the highest level of integrity and compliance with all aspects of the businesses he has owned and operated. The new business will follow a strict system of policies and procedures to insure it is operated in a professional and legal manner, including shedding the former operating name.”

Gauging by the reaction from industry insiders, Pristine Bay’s remodel work will be nothing short of an uphill climb.

“The [ Courier] article indicates that he intends to retain the Enzyte brand name, which could present some issues in that I am unaware of any product that can provide substantiation for male ‘enhancement’ products. So unless he is going to keep the name but change the nature of the product (which would make no sense), I don’t know how he could possibly change the company’s image,” commented Marc Ullman, Esq., partner in New York City-based Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, LLP.

Loren Israelsen, president of the Salt Lake City, UT-based supplement consulting firm, LDI Group, Inc., concurred and dryly added, “Mr. Kubicki may have a cold shower as he enters the foreign world of FDA regulation and the soiled image and practices of his tenant.”

Bankruptcy Trustee Richard Nelson told the Courier that Pristine Bay was among more than a dozen entities that expressed an interest in the purchase of Berkeley however when the bankruptcy auction ended, Pristine Bay was the only bidder.

“You always would have liked to have gotten more but I’m satisfied that a broad range of companies got a chance to look at it,” Mr. Nelson said. “It had a positive cash flow in day-to-day operations, but you know, judgments, forfeiture orders and penalties made it impossible to pay its way out of debt.”

Unfortunately for Pristine Bay, Berkeley squandered its chance to make a good first trustworthy impression. But given Mr. Truemper’s pledge that the company will be retooled to shed its lingering negativity, it will certainly be an interesting transformation to keep an eye on.
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