ViSalus

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ViSalus
Industry Multi-level marketing
Founded March 1, 2005 (2005-03-01)
Headquarters Los Angeles, CA, USA
Number of locations 2
Area served USA, Canada, UK
Key people Ryan Blair, CEO and co-founder
Blake Mallen, CMO and co-founder
Nick Sarnicola, sales chief and co-founder
Products Dietary supplements
Employees 275[1]
Website www.visalus.com

ViSalus Sciences is a multilevel marketing company based in Los Angeles, California, with offices in Troy, Michigan.[2] The company markets weight management nutritional products, dietary supplements and energy drinks in the United States, Canada and UK through a network of approximately 76,000 independent distributors.[3] Weight management products, including Vi-Shape meal replacement shake and Vi-Trim Clear Control Drink Mix, form the bulk of the company's sales.[4]

History[edit]

ViSalus Sciences was originally started in 1997 by Nick Sarnicola and Blake Mallen, two distributor with The Free Network, LLC, a telecommunications multi-level marketing (MLM) company based in Troy, Michigan.[2] After The Free Network folded in March 2005, ViSalus was purchased by wireless Internet developer Ryan Blair with investment from Ropart Asset Management, a private equity firm owned by Robert B. Goergen. Sarnicola and Mallen were retained as sales chief and CMO, respectively. The company was moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.[5]

The 2008 recession put ViSalus near bankruptcy, with the business $6 million in debt.[6] In 2008, ViSalus was acquired by Blyth, Inc., a multi-level marketing company that sells home decor which had been founded by Georgen.[5] In the first stage of the takeover – completed in 2008 – Blyth purchased a 43.6% equity interest for $14.0 million.[4][7] By 2010 the company had returned to profitability, and ViSalus was making over $15 million a month.[8] Blyth completed the second phase of the takeover in 2011, investing an additional $2.5 million and increasing their ownership share to 57.5%.[9]

In August 2012, Blyth – which then owned a 73% share of Visalus – planned to spin off the company in an initial public offering of shares worth up to $175 million. In September 2012, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Blyth's credit from "stable" to "negative,"[10] ViSalus reported extremely high growth rates in 2012, being audited at 450%, which made it one of the fastest growing companies of its size. Despite this, Blyth stated that the company's growth was not properly valued.[5] Blyth withdrew the Visalus IPO citing uncertain market conditions.[11]

In 2013, ViSalus launched in the United Kingdom.[12] On February 18, 2014, ViSalus announced its expansion to Germany and Austria.[13]

In September 2014, ViSalus announced that it had become a private, independent company. ViSalus arranged a transaction with Blyth to convert the company's stock to common stock, although Blyth remains an equity holder with 10% of ViSalus's stock.[14][15][16] The transaction eliminated Blyth's obligation to pay the co-founders $143.2 million as part of the 2008 acquisition. At the time of the transaction, ViSalus' earnings and revenue had declined from a high-point in 2012, and the company had been operating at a loss for 2013 and the first two quarters of 2014.[15]

Lawsuit[edit]

In October 2013, charges were filed in US Federal Court that Nick Sarnicola and Blake Mallen on behalf of ViSalus committed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations, and engaged 3rd party individuals to commit criminal acts, extortion, among other violations against Fred Ninow & Ken Dunn of Ocean Avenue.[17]

Pyramid scheme accusations[edit]

CNBC Commentator Herb Greenberg said ViSalus walks "a controversial line between legal direct selling and pyramid scheme."[18]

ViSalus was investigated by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation which published a detailed report that assailed the company's business model and high probability that investors will lose their money in the scheme.[5][19]

Products[edit]

Weight-management products, including Vi-Shape meal replacement shake, Visalus Go Instant Energy and Vi-Trim Clear Control Drink Mix, form the bulk of the company's sales.[4] Other products include Neuro, an energy drink, and Vi-Pak, an energy supplement, which were both developed by Michael Siedman, an ear, nose, and throat specialist.[2] Visalus promotes its products with the Body by Vi Challenge, a program where people set weight-loss and physical fitness goals to be achieved over a 90 day period.[20][21][22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ViSalus. "ViSalus Careers. About Us.". Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Pill Power". Metroactive. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "Blyth, Inc., Form 10-K, Annual Report, Filing Date Mar 14, 2013". secdatabase.com. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Edgar Online via Yahoo Finance. "Blyth Inc. 10K - 4/18/2011". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Boyd, Roddy (26 November 2012). "The Infernal Machine: From Powder to Dust". Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Giang, Vivian (14 August 2012), How This Guy Went From Gang Member To Multimillionaire Entrepreneur, Business Insider, retrieved 10 February 2013 
  7. ^ DM News. "Blyth Makes Two Acquisitions". Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Schawbel, Dan (8 August 2011). "Entrepreneurship: Nothing to Lose and Everything to Gain". Forbes. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Blyth, Inc. Completes Third Closing of ViSalus Acquisition". Reuters. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Moody's lowers outlook on Blyth". Bloomberg Businessweek. September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-22. 
  11. ^ Blyth's ViSalus unit pulls plans for IPO, Marketwatch, 26 September 2012, retrieved 10 February 2013 
  12. ^ "Visalus Launches in the United Kingdom (press release)". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "ViSalus, Inc. Expands to Germany and Austria". prnewswire.com. February 18, 2014. 
  14. ^ "ViSalus Completes Founder-Led Management Buyout (Press Release)". MarketWatch. PR Newswire. 5 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Walsh, Dustin (14 September 2014). "ViSalus co-founders buy back stake, launch new product line". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "Blyth Inc. (BTH) Is Up Sharply After Majority Sale Of ViSalus". RTT News. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  17. ^ Tina Williams (October 30, 2013). "Ocean Avenue Hits ViSalus With Espionage Lawsuit". businessforhome.org. Archived from the original on January 22, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ Greenberg, Herb (24 August 2012), Beware of Get-Rich-Quick IPO, CNBC, retrieved 1 March 2013 
  19. ^ National Council Against Health Fraud, Consumer Health Digest #13-10, March 7, 2013
  20. ^ Kitt Walsh. "Be a kick butt entrepreneur". CNN Money. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Supplement Maker's Sales Appear Up to 'Challenges'". Los Angeles Business Journal: 10–12. 30 April 2012. 
  22. ^ "The Changing Face of Commerce". Nutrition Business Journal (Direct Sales Channels: Internet, MLM, Media) XVII (4): 3–4. 1 April 2012.