Defending a Diet Pill

Before an ABC report airs, Metabolife fights back

It shouldn't come as a great shock that Michael Ellis is a little testy about the news media. While his weight-loss supplement Metabolife 356 is expected to generate $1 billion in sales this year, critics claim it can have damaging side effects, ranging from nervousness to strokes. To make matters worse, reporters recently discovered that Ellis, a former cop who started Metabolife in 1995, was convicted in 1990--and sentenced to five years' probation--for his small role in a methamphetamine-manufacturing ring.

Until recently, Ellis fought back against the press the old-fashioned way--issuing forceful denials and filing the occasional libel lawsuit. Last week,...

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