The Poison Pill

An internet venture goes bust, leaving some of Colorado's biggest business names with a major headache.

Kalin, who has returned to consulting, declines to discuss the lawsuit or Randy Prefer, citing the ongoing litigation. But a former colleague says the legal mess has taken its toll on Kalin.

"Phil had some dark hair before this experience," she says. "He doesn't have any now."

Although Curtiss-Lusher also declines to discuss specifics of the lawsuit, he does say that several attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement have gone nowhere. He also makes it clear that he and his colleagues see themselves as Prefer's victims.

"I'd very much like to see some of this reach the public so that others won't be taken advantage of the way we were," says Curtiss-Lusher.

Pharmnetrx's implosion startled many in Denver's medical community. "I was surprised when I heard this fell apart," says Denver health-care consultant Ralph Pollock. "They had a lot of big-name connections, and somebody sure spent a lot of money."

The idea of online prescriptions is still valid, Pollock adds, especially since it would allow doctors and pharmacists to easily reference data on drug interactions. Lethal combinations of prescription medications are now the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, he says, and physicians desperately need up-to-the-minute information in order to safeguard their patients.

But no matter how good their ideas are, entrepreneurs often run into trouble when they try to market new products. "Sometimes it's just the personalities, but usually somebody has a vision and becomes a slave to it," Pollack says. "They may be good idea people but not be good at implementing it. Whoever had the idea may not want to give it up. Also, the longer they have the idea, the more paranoid they get that somebody will steal it from them."

In fact, Prefer says, some of the best-known businessmen in the state have plotted against him. "It's a David-versus-Goliath situation," he says, alluding to a sinister conspiracy.

Prefer cites Anderson's injunction when refusing to discuss details of the suit. "If I talked about the case, I'd go to jail," he says. "I can't afford to put my family in that kind of position." He does say that he's determined to take his case to a jury and that he doesn't want to settle out of court. "That would be shooting myself in the foot," Prefer says.

In the meantime, neither the FTC's sanction nor the Pharmnetrx suit seem to have discouraged Prefer from pursuing other business projects. He's reportedly back on the circuit of local venture-capital meetings.

"He's still out there wheeling and dealing," says a former colleague. "I don't think he even feels like he's had his hands slapped.

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