THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, November 18, 1994 TAG: 9411180453 SECTION: BUSINESS PAGE: D1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY ESTHER DISKIN, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: VIRGINIA BEACH LENGTH: Medium: 69 lines
More than 300 small-business owners and bargain shoppers showed up Thursday to bid on the furniture, telephones and computers that had been part of broadcaster Pat Robertson's foray into multilevel marketing of vitamins and ``Sea of Galilee'' cosmetics.
Most of the people who jammed into the narrow halls of the KaloVita company knew little about the financial decline and ethical controversy that preceded Robertson's sale of the company to a Dallas-based firm. Royal BodyCare Inc. announced last week that it had bought the company and planned to close the Virginia Beach office.
``Oh, this is them? The religious vitamin people?'' asked Dennis Myers, who came looking for good prices on furniture for his insurance office.
Piece by piece, all traces of the business - even the red-letter ``KaloVita'' sign on the building - disappeared during the daylong auction.
But the doubts and disappointments of Christians drawn into vitamin and cosmetics sales through their spiritual connection to Robertson haven't vanished with his decision to shut the company's doors.
Many claim they lost thousands in products that they were unable to sell. And some say they feel betrayed by a spiritual leader whose promotional videos and speeches drew them in with promises that they would find prosperity.
``He uses the front of raising money from Christian donations and then turns it around to a for-profit venture,'' said Daniel R. Myer, who was a national distributor for KaloVita. ``I don't know where the money goes, but it raises ethical questions in my mind.''
Robertson's tax-exempt ministry, the Christian Broadcasting Network, invested $2.8 million in KaloVita. Robertson poured in $2.5 million of his own money, but the company continued its financial decline. KaloVita officials said the company did not mislead distributors about investing in the products, and Robertson says he has repaid CBN's investment with interest.
ABC News and Newsweek magazine recently ran stories on KaloVita detailing those investments and the company's continued downward spiral. Most of the information in those stories was reported a year ago in a series of articles in The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star.
Kerry Young, a former distributor in KaloVita who says he lost $10,000 in the venture, said Robertson never should have started KaloVita.
``I know of people who came to know the Lord through getting involved in the business,'' Young said. ``When things happened with this business, they started to question God. It damaged their Christian walk.''
Young says he and others joined the company because of their emotional connection to Robertson and didn't always use their best business sense. ``If it had been anybody else endorsing this company, any Joe Shmoe other than Pat Robertson, I wouldn't have gotten involved,'' Young said.
For Aimee Shirley, Robertson's sale of KaloVita meant she was out of a job. She worked for three years at the KaloVita office in Virginia Beach as a data-entry clerk.
The media reports on KaloVita didn't shake Shirley's faith in Robertson, because she said she believes much of the criticism came because he is a prominent spiritual leader. ``Everyone that worked there was like a family,'' she said. ``When we got the negative publicity, we worked even harder to make it go. It was so sad when the doors closed.'' ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
Calvin Zedd sells a chair during an auction Thursday of the office
supplies of KaloVita. The company was recently bought by a Dallas