Printron's Ex-Chief Sues McGraw-Hill,
Albuquerque, NM — New technology: what does it take to make it work? There are such all-important factors as funding, R&D, believability, and finally marketability. But all too often, personal considerations, petty prejudices and rumor-mills can wreak havoc on companies that are brand new and still looking for their first significant profit year.
That's exactly what happened to Printron, a company enthusiastically followed by U.S. Tech over the past several years. The company developed a process for printing conductive printed circuits, using a liquid "ink" and a new, patented process. It looked like a real winner; it had a lock on the new technology, there were prototype systems, there were investors, there was a brand-new plant in Albuquerque, NM, and they were flying in analysts and editors to see the new system in the flesh. A bonus feature: the process neatly got rid of a lot of environmental problems that are usually associated with the manufacture of printed circuit boards.
So what went wrong? One investor got upset with Printron's president, Eleanor Schuler — mainly because she had started life as a man and had a sex-change operation 20 years ago. And because of this highly-publicized viewpoint, an entirely new technology, company and its investors were shot down. Printron was forced into Chapter XI after an unflattering article appeared in Business Week and its stock went into the toilet.
Former Rocket Scientist
Two decades before, Printron president Eleanor Schuler had made headlines as a rocket scientist, and as a deeply patriotic double agent working with the FBI against the Russian KGB. The much-ballyhooed sex-change operation came in 1975. She retired from the spotlight in 1979 to start a new life as a private citizen and high-tech business consultant.
When Printron came on the scene, she assisted in the gathering of scientists and engineers and the critical development of Printron's new printed circuit technology. She raised money for the company — over $7,000,000 since 1989 — to keep technicians and support staff who were creating a new non-polluting, rapid manufacturing technology for the multi-billion dollar printed circuit industry. Some five patents have been issued, two have received notice of allowability, and 25 more are about to be filed. Schuler's name appears on one of the five already-issued patents.
Success seemed within reach when Printron was chosen by a Blue-Ribbon panel of Wall Streeters for the experimental Emerging Marketplace of the American Stock Exchange. Investors would be encouraged to support the fledgling company, Schuler reasoned, which still faced years of struggle in commercializing its technology.
Then out of nowhere, a dissident shareholder brought suit against Printron and Schuler personally when the stock had some downward activity. He shared his allegations with Business Week, which re-exposed Schuler's double agent life and medical history in what was described as an unpleasant four-page article, in a flurry of scandal and innuendo in the September 1994 Business Week. The article had an immediate effect. Investors fled. Printron urged Schuler to resign and then had to seek reorganization in Chapter XI.
Schuler suddenly found herself unemployed and unemployable. Her contacts wouldn't return her phone calls and Business Week did nothing in the way of a retraction. Schuler finally decided after a year of checking the law, that the only way to get her side of the story heard was in court.
She found a group of lawyers who checked her story and brought suit in New Mexico on grounds of tortuous libel, malicious invasion of medical privacy, falsification of facts and outrageous and nasty defamation. According to her legal team, "This is going to be the most publicized jury trial in New Mexico history. Medical privacy issues are going to get a much needed airing . . . ."
What will this do for Printron and its many stockholders who currently possess what appears to be worthless paper? This is a question that remains to be resolved, based in large part of the findings of the court in this legal battle. Since such courtroom dramas can consume years of litigation, and because new technology enters the marketplace so rapidly, the entire process may have come too late to save Printron.<<< THIS MAY NOT APPLY TO PRINTRON(PRNT) JUST FOUND ANOUTHER COMPANY NAMED PRINTRONIX(ptnx)???