Phoenix Group

Taken from the LA Times[1]

For Charles W. Missler, 1990 wasn't kind. But in 1991, he discovered that disaster has a divine lining.

Missler was formerly chairman of Western Digital Corp., which he rescued from bankruptcy in the late 1970s and quit in 1983 after cashing in $5 million in stock options. He burst into the limelight again in September, 1989, when he announced that his Phoenix Group International, a small technology company in Irvine, had landed a joint venture that would sell up to 6 million IBM-compatible personal computers to schools in the Soviet Union in exchange for raw materials.

It was called the biggest computer sale agreement ever struck by a U.S. company with Soviet businessmen. Two years later, there is no more Phoenix Group--and no more Soviet Union.

Within 15 months of the announcement, the Phoenix Group filed for bankruptcy protection. Missler said the joint venture had foundered from lack of capital, problems dealing with Soviet partners and bad publicity on the deal from the local press.

Phoenix is being liquidated, Missler said in a Christmas Eve telephone interview from a home he rents in Big Bear. Most of the investors, including Missler, were wiped out. He estimated his losses "in the eight figures."

"I lost everything I had, including my home," said Missler, 57. "It was my own fault. I became overly zealous for the project, and those things happen. . . .

"I've taken six companies out of Chapter 11, and I've put one in."

Attempts are under way to reorganize a Phoenix subsidiary, Netcom Research Inc. of Irvine, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings but is selling network computer systems, mainly in Europe, Missler said.

He is still chairman of Netcom but hopes to pass the baton as soon as the company is on firm ground. Meanwhile, Missler is trying to make whole those investors who staked Phoenix because they had a personal commitment to him--including Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, who invested $150,000, and Hal Lindsey, pastor of Tetelstai Christian Center in Torrance.

But Missler, a longtime Bible scholar, has found a new calling. For years, he taught Monday night Bible classes at Calvary Chapel, and his taped sermons found a wide following.

"When I was going through my personal setbacks, I discovered there were 7 million of those tapes around the world," Missler said. "What I considered a hobby had become very substantial."

He devotes his time to writing and teaching Bible studies. His Monday night classes had to be moved to Wednesday nights by the time about 2,000 people were showing up. He teaches Tuesday nights at Tetelstai and Sunday evenings in Big Bear.

"I'm living in effect as a minister," he said. "I live off offerings and donations from people who have responded to some of the materials that I speak to."

A book Missler wrote with Don Stewart, entitled "The Coming Temple," was published by Dart Press in April and is in its second printing, Missler said.

He also writes a donation-supported newsletter, Personal Update, which he said has a circulation of about 10,000.

"Frankly, without a sound biblical orientation, I probably couldn't have handled it," he said. "This sounds really corny and strange, but I really believe this is God's way of getting my attention and putting me in the job he wants me in."

While his business career was rewarding, Missler said, he is finding greater satisfaction in spreading the Christian Gospel.

"What I'm doing now is vastly more gratifying than anything I've done in the past," Missler said, adding: "That impact is, frankly, vastly more satisfying than improving the balance sheet."


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