|Occupation||Entrepreneur and Philanthropist|
|Known for||Founder of Rhinotek|
Gerald "Jerry" Chamales is the founder of Rhinotek Computer Products, a printer cartridge manufacturer and retailer. Chamales is known for his founding of the firm and for his work with recovering alcoholics and addicts. As well as his efforts in wild animal conservation. In 2001 he was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for business service.
Chamales spent his early life in a foster home, before moving back in with his single mother. His father was Tom T. Chamales, author of two books including the 1957 Never So Few, which was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen. His father, however, died at the age of 35 when Gerald was a child.
In 1980 with $7000 Gerald Chamales founded what is now known as Rhinotek Computer Products in his Venice, California studio apartment. The firm nearly ran out of money in the first year. The business was run out of his apartment for the first five years, over which time Chamales paid himself only $200 per month. At that point he moved the business into an office, and within two years he was making enough profit to hire fifteen new employees.
By 1998 the company, then known as Omni Computer Products, had 250 employees and $25.5 million in sales. Four years later in 2002 the company had in excess of $45 million in sales. That year Chamales was interviewed by reporters about the intentions of pending Lexmark lawsuits against small printer cartridge competitors, and stated that while there is nothing wrong with making a profit, "there is something wrong if you can sell something for $300 that costs you $30 to make and you are trying to drive out someone who's willing to sell it for $100." The evolution of his management style has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, stating that Chamales has "learned to tap into employees' passions and strengths, and get the best out of them."
He afterwards founded Equity Value Group, a company specializing in investments and philanthropic causes. In 2010 he received his film credit, serving as a producer for the feature-length documentary film Something's Gonna Live, which traced the history and stories of six early era Hollywood production pioneers.
Help to alcoholics and addicts
When Chamales started Rhinotek, he had very recently become sober after a period of homelessness and hospitalization due to drug and alcohol abuse. Chamales has spent his life since committed to helping other alcoholics and addicts with their recovery. For example, today about 20% of his company's employees are recovering alcoholics or addicts, a number that has reached as high as one third. Chamales ensures that part of his recruitment process includes recruiting at halfway houses, parole programs, homeless shelters, and drug and alcohol treatment programs. In addition to a job, the company provides former addicts with everything from training to short term loans. The company recorded that employees recruited in this manner, a process Chamales begun in 1986, had a higher job retension rate than those hired through more traditional routes. California Justice Stephen Marcus has stated that he has been surprised by the results of the program, saying "Hard as it is to believe, these people are good workers". Employees who have relapses are provided with counselling and further care if necessary.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 1998 that, "After six months, Mr. Chamales says, Omni usually knows if the hire is good. While turnover in the first six months is 50%, after that it drops to 27%. It isn't a free ride for Omni. New hires get a mentor right away, for coaching on skills like getting along with people and problem-solving. The company also has some $250,000 in personal loans outstanding to employees -- often for legal fees and drug fines." Chamales' work in this field has been spoken or written about on CNBC, ABC, NBC Nightly News and the O'Reilly Factor, Time Magazine, Success Magazine, Business Week, Fortune Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.
As of 1998, Omni was donating $25,000 per year to rhinoceros conservation in Kenya. In 2001 Chamales teamed with the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya to help save the nearly extinct black rhino, hence the name Rhinotek. An estimated three-hundred-fifty of the Fortune 500 companies use Rhinotek products, and a portion of each sale goes directly to the Conservancy. The Lewa Conservancy also uses the proceeds from sales by Rhinotek Computer Products to help the conservation of lions, giraffes, and other African animals. Chamales changed the name of his company to Rhinotek Computer Products, linking his revenue to the firm's conservation efforts.
Other charitable work
An advocate for the homeless, Jerry served for ten years as a board-member of the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles, a facility that provides food, shelter, clothing and other services to homeless men and women. He was honored with the Golden Heart Award for his work in 2009. He and his wife Kathleen Chamales also support The Clare Foundation, where Kathleen is on the Honorary Board of Directors, and Friendly House an organization that provides sober living for recovering women.
Jerry was nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for business service in 1998 and won the award in 2001, and Rhinotek was named to Industry Week Magazine's list of the Top 25 U.S. Manufacturers.
In 1994, Chamales acquired a house near to that of O.J. Simpson. Because of the notoriety of the events that occurred shortly thereafter surrounding Simpson, Chamales attempted to claim a casualty loss under IRC § 165 for the estimated loss of market value on his residence. This was denied by the Internal Revenue Service, and its ruling was upheld in 2000 by the United States Tax Court. However, an accuracy-related penalty under IRC § 6662 was revoked, as the filing had been done in good faith.
In 2005 Chamales' company Rhinotek was sued by HP over the packaging Rhinotek was using at the time. Though HP and Rhinotek ink is different, Rhinotek products are compatible with HP printers. HP's complaint stated that it believed that Rhinotek should make it more explicit on its packaging that Rhinotek uses parts recycled from used cartridges to produce its products. The lawsuits occurred at approximately the same time as state legislation in the US, including in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, for government agencies to purchase remanufactured printer cartridges rather than new cartridges for reasons of cost and environmental concerns. In 2002 Chamales responded to such moves by printer manufacturers as trying "to prevent erosion of their marketshare".
In 2005, Chamales sold a Toronto-based recycling company in which he had invested to Okidata. In the following year, he launched a lawsuit against Okidata in the matter. Originally filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, it was transferred to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in 2007.
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- Gerald Chamales Corp. v. Oki Data Americas, Inc., 557 F.Supp.2d 494 (D.N.J. 2008).