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There's something about Dr. Hugo Sutton that reminds you of no one but Peter O'Toole. The elongated frame, the delicately expressive hands, the precise English accent -- these are the obvious connections. But more, it's the peculiar mix of fragility and a reckless wit that seems to beckon danger. I am woundable, it says, so try. As you sit and begin to delve into the strange saga of Lasik Vision Corp., the first words from Sutton's mouth, as it spreads into a wide, sly grin, are, "Well, it's all about me."

Some 30 kilometres west of Sutton's Vancouver office, on the thickly treed enclave of Bowen Island, you'll find somebody who disagrees. Behind a large wrought-iron gate, on a sloping property that looks toward Vancouver, Lasik's former CEO, Michael Henderson, lives with his wife, Jennifer. On a misty afternoon you might find Jennifer at her riding club, while landscapers continue their improvements to the Henderson compound. Michael, wherever you found him, would be furiously busy -- working, directing, planning, proving in many ways that it's all about him.

And they would both be right, the doctor and the executive. The story of Lasik Vision centres on its two founders, a clash of business and medicine, and the battle to the corporate death that ensued.

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With 14 laser centres in Canada, Lasik Vision has more clinics in this country than any other refractive surgery company, and in North America overall its 30 clinics are second only to the 62 clinics of TLC Laser Eye Centers Inc., a Mississauga-based corporation that has focused on U.S. expansion. It took Lasik Vision less than three years to expand from a single location to a peak of 31. Now Lasik's call centre fields inquiries from 3,000 potential customers a day, and the waiting room in a typical clinic has some 20 couches. In the most recent quarter, Lasik's doctors operated on more than 40,000 eyes, generating revenues of more than $27 million.

But over the last two years Lasik Vision has also endured more bad publicity than just about any public company you could name. Its founding surgeon is immersed in litigation. This past May, it suffered the humiliation of having to restate its financial results. A proxy battle saw its board replaced, and its CEO, Michael Henderson, fired. Last August, Lasik Vision took yet another blow: Henderson's lawsuit claiming wrongful dismissal, corporate foul play and medical negligence for the surgery performed on his own eyes by the man who had hired him, and deposed him -- Hugo Sutton.

The effects of all this conflict are clear in the face of James Watson, Lasik's executive vice-president of operations, who isn't getting much sleep these days. "These challenges are just endless," he says, rubbing his red eyes. "That's all it's ever been for us -- it's just this, 'Well, how many lawsuits? What's happened lately? I hear you guys are going bankrupt.'

"We singlehandedly changed the face of the industry of laser vision correction," Watson says. Without them, this procedure might still cost $5,000 in every corner of the continent. "But does anyone ever talk about that? No."

Born in Devon, schooled in London, Sutton arrived in Vancouver to train in ophthalmology in 1973. At that time, one of the most common and lucrative eye surgeries was cataract removal, which was eventually combined with a lens-implant procedure. In 1978, Sutton opened his own private surgery practice, specializing, like a lot of other ophthalmologists, in cataracts.

But two coincidental developments changed all that. First was advances in refractive surgery -- the process of correcting myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism by altering the contours of the cornea. New technologies -- including the excimer laser -- had turned refractive surgery from a rather scary proposition involving lathes and sutures into a viable option for those patients able to pay some $5,000 for the convenience of living without glasses or contact lenses. The second development was a restriction on the fees that surgeons were allowed to charge for the cataract/lens procedure -- down to $491 in Ontario, for instance, and even less if the surgeon had reached his earnings cap. Thus began the stream of ophthalmologists jumping to refractive surgery so that they could, in the words of Lasik principal Dr. Dan Reinstein, "continue the payments on their boats."

By 1991, Sutton -- a boating enthusiast, as it happens -- had opened up his own refractive surgery clinic with two partners on Vancouver's West Broadway Avenue. In that first year, they performed the initial version of the operation -- known as PRK for "Photo-Refractive Keratectomy" -- on 27 eyes. It was early days, so they considered this number a success.

Over the next few years, Vancouver became a burgeoning centre for refractive surgery. Techniques evolved, technology improved, and by 1996, PRK was being overtaken by the Lasik technique, which involved slicing off a flap of cornea to expose the lower layers to the laser, and spared patients the months of healing that came with PRK.

Still, in some instances patients experienced post-operative irritation. That's why one of Sutton's patients, Jennifer Henderson, returned to Sutton's clinic in late 1996, accompanied by her husband, Michael.

An energetic Irish emigrant in his 30s, Michael Henderson was an executive with the Canadian arm of Rentokil Initial PLC. We can't know what went through his mind when he met Sutton and saw his clinic, because -- despite persistent requests -- neither Henderson, his wife, his past colleagues at Rentokil, nor his close ally at Lasik, Sandra Matthews, agreed to be interviewed. We have only Henderson's statement of claim, registered this past summer, from which to glean his version of later events. But it was a pivotal encounter.

Henderson saw an opportunity. "He felt this was a very powerful technology," Sutton recalls him saying, "and that he could take it much further than it had been taken with the model that we had at the time, which I guess he thought was rather pedestrian or slow or old-fashioned."

Sutton was in a mood to hear this sort of optimism. Though his Broadway Eye Clinic had been lasering about 100 eyes a month, that number now seemed to be dropping, and rival clinics were doing better. Sutton was growing fatigued from operating on all these eyes with little help while also managing the clinic and paying the bills on $600,000 lasers. Suddenly, someone apparently capable of making his business a success arrived to offer his services. Henderson, with his GQ looks and remarkable presence, didn't have to work very hard to make the idea sound appealing. "Michael could charm the birds from the trees," says Sutton. "He is the most verbally adept person of anybody that I've met." Hiring him, says Sutton, "was a no-brainer."

It was around June of 1997 that Henderson joined Sutton's company, TMX Laser Vision Canada Inc.,

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as vice-president. He was, by all appearances, exactly the right man at the right time. Sutton remembers him as being "excessively diligent, some would say workaholic." James Watson admits, "He was probably the most driven person I've ever met in my life."

Very soon after his arrival, Henderson began cleaning out the employees he considered deficient. It was a move that Sutton, at first, considered beneficial, admitting that he'd been too tolerant of sub-par staff. But gradually it became apparent that, as Henderson worked doggedly toward Lasik's expansion, he intended to keep the staff numbers low. This might well have had a business rationale, but keeping the staff small forced the medical personnel to work harder, longer hours. They began to feel his influence in other ways too.

Dan Reinstein, a Cambridge-educated assistant professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University, had gone to Sutton's centre to get front-line clinical experience. Specifically, he wanted to refine an ultrasound scanner that would measure the individual layers of each cornea -- and thus improve the Lasik technique's success ratio. Reinstein set up his scanner in one of the clinic's examination rooms. But Henderson resisted. "He was like, 'We are not letting the patients under that scanner,'" recalls Reinstein. "And [Sutton]was like, 'We are. Get back to your room.'" The younger doctor, sitting in his surgical greens at the Lasik boardroom table, turns to Sutton: "At the time, you actually had that say over him."

It was important, says Sutton, that his doctors be respected, and protected: "Psychically, emotionally, the surgeon has to be supported," especially in the context of a complex medical procedure, which "has to go like a ballet." Reinstein in particular had a rather stageworthy ego. But it was clear early on that Henderson had little time for the sensibilities of the medical staff.

Soon after joining Sutton's operation, Henderson pressed the notion that the way to fortune was to jettison the traditional model for refractive surgery clinics. That method involved acquiring patients through referrals from optometrists, who then provided the post-operative care and received a portion of the $4,000 to $5,000 fee. Instead, Lasik would save costs by cutting out the optometrists and by standardizing every step in the "care delivery system." It would attract patients directly with aggressive advertising and a price point well below its competitors' -- initially, $2,995.

In February of 1998, Sutton and Henderson launched this new vision. The backlash was instant. To local optometrists, Sutton became an enemy. And his colleagues at the University of British Columbia, where Sutton was a clinical associate professor, were mortified by his descent into what they considered discount medicine. TLC and other competitors had, to some degree, managed to rise above the admonitions against the intersection of commerce and care, largely because they ran relatively higher-priced, lower-volume operations. Now Lasik, with its claim of charging the "true" cost for the procedure, had breached that taboo. Incensed competitors began to suggest that the quality of Lasik's care was suspect.

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"People think they can equate the cost with the quality," fumes Reinstein, "and maybe it's true for leather, and maybe it's true for cars. But medicine is medicine." On top of all the ill will, Sutton lost the referrals from optometrists, and so before the new marketing campaign had taken effect, his volume dropped to just 60 eyes

a month. "It was," he says, "a very unhappy time."

It was to get even less happy. When Reinstein first arrived, he was intrigued to find in Sutton's care

a number of patients with what he considered odd and interesting surgical results. "My first day," he says, "I couldn't believe some of the things I was looking at."

Reinstein means it as a positive. "Hugo's nature is pioneering. And so by definition, he's more likely to have less conservative, uh, outcomes. Certainly I know of many instances where I have improved my technique from observing [outcomes he'd had].. because he was first there."

But in a highly competitive environment, patients emerging from surgery with odd results was not ideal. Word started to spread within the medical community that a certain small percentage of Sutton's patients had complaints. And some of these patients started to seek redress.

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One case hurt Sutton, and Lasik, more than any other. In the spring of 1998, a nurse named Deborah Ralph complained of poor vision after Sutton's surgery. Looking for a second opinion, she went to Lasik's main competitor, TLC. On July 6, CBC Television news in Vancouver broadcast a lengthy exposé on the number of complaints and suits being launched against Sutton. Ralph's was the featured case. She later appeared in a similar report on CTV's W-Five.

Well before then, Lasik had concluded that Ralph and the other patients going public were being solicited and encouraged by TLC. In May '98, Lasik launched a $38-million defamation suit against TLC, and Sutton invited the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons to review his procedures. (In September of 2000, just before its date to appear in B.C. Supreme Court, TLC paid Lasik an out-of-court settlement fee that TLC, to Lasik's chagrin, characterized as having only "nuisance value.") A week after the CBC telecast, Lasik filed a defamation suit against the broadcaster. That case has yet to go to trial.

Sutton's hellish summer of 1998 concluded, in August, with a statement from the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons that said in part that Sutton "has agreed to modification of his practice, and he has voluntarily agreed not to perform these surgical procedures on patients in the higher-risk categories." It was a rare public response from the college, made necessary, says Dr. Morris Van Andel, who was involved in the review, by the very public nature of the complaints. "It was a new procedure," says Van Andel now, "and [Sutton]was quite aggressive in his approach." By the time the college reviewed Sutton's work, according to Van Andel, he had already instituted changes in his screening process to weed out the high-risk candidates, and he was found to be providing "good care."

Inside Lasik Vision, the effect of all of this was to help skew the balance of power. With lawsuits flying and Sutton apparently ducking for cover, Henderson stepped in. It was he, for instance, who testily defended the company in front of the CBC camera, not Sutton, the CEO. By April of 1999, Henderson had convinced Sutton to relinquish the titles of president and CEO to him, and had completed an elaborate series of moves to take Lasik public. "It was basically Michael deciding what to do, with two or three other people," says Dr. Avi Wallerstein, a Lasik surgeon named in Henderson's suit. Sutton was so busy with surgery, says Wallerstein, that "It actually allowed Michael to take over." Henderson's own lawsuit points to his attempts to curtail Sutton's power. In the spring of 1999, it claims, Sutton tried to oust Henderson. The reason? To "thwart [Henderson's]efforts of reducing Sutton's influence."

As CEO, Henderson pushed Lasik into a massive expansion. As much as 50% of the population could benefit from refractive surgery; it was TLC's reckoning that if only 2% of that group in the U.S. had laser surgery, it represented a $12-billion (U.S.) annual market at TLC prices. To grab its share of volume, Lasik needed more clinics. Mississauga, in September of '98, had been the second. Calgary, two months later, was the third. From the end of 1998 to September of 1999, the company grew from three clinics to 11.

At the same time, Henderson displayed a taste for the finery of success: a white Mercedes sports car for himself, a white Mercedes SUV for Jennifer, the home on Bowen Island, purchased about two years ago and in constant renovations since. He had, says Watson, a "basketball-court-sized office" in Lasik's headquarters, and a large condominium in a glass building looming within view of Lasik's West Georgia Street location.

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Perhaps this was the businessman lording it over the doctors, or perhaps that's how they took it. But in Reinstein's stormy recollection, the doctors and Henderson increasingly found themselves in disagreement about the administration of the clinics. "It is highly unpleasant," says Reinstein, "when a businessman is constantly questioning what your judgment is."

Price point was the key, Henderson insisted, and he pursued it relentlessly. In TV ads, Henderson personally extolled the Lasik message -- Why pay more? -- standing next to a loud graphic touting "$1475 per eye." By early 1999, the advertised price had fallen to $1,598 for both. But he wanted it even lower.

"Michael believed that $999 was the price that would make people pick up the phone," says Watson. One ad that Henderson pushed through shouted the $999 rate with an asterisk -- the fine print listed another $599 in fees. Watson worried that people would be turned off by the image of "chintzy, cheap, cut-rate surgery." At the very least, they complained about the misinformation, prompting Advertising Standards Canada to demand a change. Watson took the opportunity to run a test ad in Air Canada's enRoute magazine, without Henderson's approval, listing a price of $799 per eye.

Soon Watson got a call. It was Henderson, screaming expletives from 30,000 feet. The next Monday morning, Watson came into his office to find the ad ripped out of the magazine with a note. "Never again. M.R.H."

In his zeal, Henderson became, according to the Lasik statement of defence, "abusive," "offensive" and "profane." More than that, he began to employ a "frequent and irrational use of power." Executives who displeased him, such as CFO Robert Orr, were fired "without cause," and he used threats of dismissal "to intimidate and manipulate staff."

"People were afraid to speak their minds," says Watson. "People weren't allowed to move a picture in an office." At the same time, Lasik employees could hardly fail to notice how Henderson seemed to favour certain staff, engaging in what the Lasik statement calls "inappropriate relations with subordinate employees."

If the pressure on Lasik staff seemed high, it was only going to get higher. At the beginning of December, 1999, with the lawsuits against Sutton an unresolved distraction (most have yet to come to trial), Henderson called a meeting at which he announced to the executive group that Lasik Vision would dramatically step up the pace of expansion. With a three-year head start, its main competitor, TLC, had already established dozens of clinics throughout the United States. Beginning in March, 2000, said Henderson, Lasik would start catching up by opening more than 20 U.S. clinics at the astonishing pace of one a week. "We just looked at him as if he was completely nuts," says Reinstein. It can't be done, the medical staff told him. Well, said Henderson, we're doing it.

How this chafed, this businessman's arrogance. And yet Reinstein, who believes passionately in the standardization of care, admits that he saw the potential symmetries between a business formula -- same paint on the walls, same couches in the waiting room -- and a standardized approach to the way patients were counselled and corneas were lasered. It was the only way large volumes of patients could be treated at a high level of care. Whether driven by fear that they would be left behind, or belief in Henderson's plan, the medical side met the challenge, devising a hiring and training system that Sutton, Reinstein and the other doctors felt would ensure a reliable level of quality across the company.

At a later meeting to discuss those plans, Reinstein realized that Henderson had pulled it off: that if he hadn't forced the group into immediate action, they would never have devised these new efficiencies.

But then Henderson operated ever more unilaterally. "It was almost like pulling teeth to actually gain information," says Wallerstein, the top Lasik surgeon in Montreal. Lasik clinics became more and more lavishly appointed, going far beyond budget. Henderson "engaged in fiscally irresponsible and imprudent behaviour," says the Lasik statement of defence, including "excessive expenditures relating to construction of new clinics" and "imprudent decisions regarding the terms of lease agreements." An internal newsletter from that period features an anxiety-tinged marketing update from James Watson on the launch of three California clinics: "We have booked full-page ads in the L.A. Times, at the cost of about half the average mortgage in Canada," he wrote. "...Leaping out of bed in a cold sweat in the middle of the night thinking something has been missed, call the office, has become routine."

Whenever the doctors seemed to share that anxiety, Henderson often managed to co-opt them. Wallerstein recalls that when Henderson heard he had started to raise his concerns about the expansion with members of the board, the CEO immediately flew to Montreal. "He said to me, 'Well, you know what? I want to make you the national medical director.' He manoeuvred me." (Sutton, meanwhile, became medical director only of the Vancouver clinic.) Henderson likewise manoeuvred Reinstein, who at one point left in a huff and spent a month at a university in Paris. Henderson constantly called and e-mailed, feeding Reinstein's ego -- imagine the things he could do as a national medical director. Having both doctors in the position seems an awkward and expedient arrangement. But Reinstein accepted and was happy, until some new unilateral decision outraged him. "They'd be really good buddies," says Wallerstein, "and then they'd be at each other's throats."

Somewhere in the midst of this expansion, as Lasik announced the opening of four new U.S. clinics in March, 2000, and six more in April, the balance of opinion tipped against the CEO. The same people who had accepted the promotions and jumped aboard Henderson's expansion drive became frustrated and nervous. "It changed from 'Wow, this is exciting and amazing and, gosh, we're gonna do it,'" says Reinstein, "to 'We are going fast and we're heading directly for a brick wall.'"

Sutton had been forced to the periphery by his own professional crisis and by Henderson's apparent efforts to scapegoat him. "He villainized Hugo a lot," says Reinstein. "Made him into the bad guy to everyone." That attitude certainly permeates sections of Henderson's statement of claim. It talks of Sutton's failure to respond to controls placed on him "to correct his recurring negligence," alleges that Henderson was fired to prevent him from dealing with Sutton's "professional incompetence," and suggests that Henderson was worried "about the negative impact of Sutton on the ability of the defendant companies to raise new financing, maintain insurance, attract new surgeons...and maintain internal staff morale."

Conflicts over money may have contributed just as much to the enmity between the two. In his statement of claim, Henderson alleges that Sutton misrepresented his net worth and ability to provide credit assistance to their venture, forcing Henderson to use his own credit. Sutton denies this, and has filed a separate lawsuit against his former partner claiming, among other things, that Henderson owes him more than $600,000.

Despite being marginalized by the lawsuits and his imperious CEO, Sutton did apparently try for some semblance of control. He lobbied members of the board, which included -- apart from himself and Henderson -- Douglas Mason and Stuart Ross, of Clearly Canadian Beverage Corp. (neither of whom agreed to be interviewed), businessman John Withers (who could not be reached) and Nicholas Geer, who had been a long-time right arm to billionaire Jimmy Pattison. Sutton had difficulty getting the board to listen to his pleas. "These business guys were talking heart-to-heart to each other," says Wallerstein, "and Michael would say, look, he is a lunatic doctor, what is he talking about?"

Sutton's salvation came in the spring of 2000, in the form of troubling news. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, while auditing Lasik's financial statements, grew concerned. According to the Lasik statement of defence, the auditors insisted that "they would likely tender their resignation" if Henderson were allowed to continue "unfettered."

That couldn't be ignored. "The board started to wake up," says Wallerstein. It was then, according to the Lasik statement, that Geer interviewed the Lasik medical team. Recalls Reinstein, "We said, you know, we have lost it. We don't know where this is going."

On May 4, Henderson's version of Lasik's financial results was released. When the company issued the restatement demanded by the auditors, it showed that first-quarter revenue and earnings had each been overstated by more than $2 million, and that expenses associated with business development were nearly 10 times what had been reported.

On May 17, as detailed in the statement of defence, the board approved a resolution to restrict Henderson's control. But Sutton considered the board incapable of addressing what, to him, was the obvious need -- to force Henderson out. The Lasik statement shows that three days before the board finalized its get-tough resolution, Sutton had already begun soliciting proxies "seeking the appointment of a new board of directors" through his own company, TMX Laser Vision Canada.

Geer, entirely fed up with the Lasik drama, resigned his directorship on May 27. While he's careful not to divulge what went on in board meetings, he does allow that "I found Michael Henderson very difficult to work with." According to Sutton, Geer recognized the board's inability to deal with Henderson, and privately encouraged Sutton to use his resignation from the board to initiate some sort of change. Avi Wallerstein, arguably in Sutton's camp, was appointed to fill Geer's board seat in June. Meanwhile Philip Louie, a former Lasik Vision accountant and board member, assisted Sutton in assembling the shareholder votes to replace the remainder of the board in advance of the annual general meeting scheduled for June 22, a Thursday.

Henderson's final week as Lasik Vision's CEO was an eventful one. On June 15, according to Lasik's statement of defence, having learned of the proxy campaign, Henderson drafted a memo to the board and "coerced" members of management to sign it, declaring their support for him and asking that Sutton and Wallerstein be removed. On the Saturday before the AGM, Withers, Mason and Ross told Henderson that his ouster was imminent. He attempted, again according to the statement of defence, to negotiate a severance package of $1,410,000 (U.S.), and announced that if he didn't get it, he'd implement a nine-point plan, including allegations of a medical "cover-up" within Lasik, to "destroy the company." Indeed, Henderson alleges a cover-up in his statement, claiming that Reinstein and Wallerstein failed to inform him of 103 "potential" lawsuits against Sutton, based on a list of patients due to receive "corrective surgery." (The Lasik statement of defence denies that Henderson wasn't informed about potential lawsuits; and moreover states that he misunderstood the definition of the list.)

According to several sources, Henderson, now well aware of his weakening position, held a bizarre management meeting. Before the managers arrived, Henderson set out a kind of Last Supper, with red juice -- or perhaps it was wine -- and hunks of bread laid at each setting. Then he told the managers that there was a Judas among them. He's also said to have produced a photo of the management and medical group on which he had blacked out a number of key faces.

On Tuesday, Withers, Mason and Ross resigned from the board. The next day, Henderson, now reachable only through his lawyer, was asked to attend an urgent board meeting to appoint new directors. At his own request, Henderson chaired that meeting, until they reached the point of "any other business."

"Perhaps he had a premonition of what the other business might be," says Sutton, "so rather than stay and discuss the other business, he actually left the meeting." The new board then terminated the employment of their CEO. He received notice in a letter that evening.

At the next day's AGM, Henderson sat expressionless, with his lawyer and his ally Sandra Matthews at his side, and watched as a large majority of shareholders confirmed his firing and the appointment of the new board, which now, in addition to Sutton and Wallerstein, included Philip Louie, John Porter (co-founder and director of the Grandvision group, Europe's largest optical retailer) and optometrist Dr. Nurudin Ahmed. Throughout the meeting, Henderson seldom made eye contact with the group up on the platform, but Matthews did not hide her feelings. "She would maintain this angry stare for two, three, four, five minutes at a time," says Wallerstein.

Matthews may have been fuming over being ousted herself. She had arrived at Lasik Vision in April, 1998, from her junior job at TLC and soon was rising like a flame through the executive ranks. By June of 1999, she was executive vice-president of corporate development. But after Henderson was fired, her departure was even swifter. Matthews's own statement of claim alleges that on or about the same day as the AGM, Lasik refused "to permit [her]to perform her functions" and escorted her from the office in a manner she describes as "demeaning, distressing, humiliating, embarrassing and unfair."

On August 18, Henderson filed his wrongful dismissal and medical negligence statement of claim. He devotes much of its 31 pages to detailing the salary, bonuses and stock options owed to him, as well as laying out the alleged misdeeds already mentioned. But easily the most lurid allegations in Henderson's statement centre on Sutton's competence as a surgeon, and Henderson uses himself as exhibit A.

Back in March, 1998, Sutton performed laser refractive eye surgery on both of Henderson's eyes, which Reinstein says suffered from severe hyperopia. The surgery, Henderson claims, "was negligently performed with a poor result in the plaintiff's left eye and a very significant deterioration in the plaintiff's vision in the right eye." According to the statement, Reinstein told Henderson that he probably could correct the problem. Perhaps it was this assurance that convinced Henderson to later recommend that both his mother and his cousin fly to Vancouver for the same surgery.

Lasik's statement of defence denies that Sutton did any damage. But Reinstein does admit, "He didn't see well out of his right eye. He had a complication." Henderson's problem, Reinstein insists, is that he doesn't understand the difference between a complication and negligence. "Well, maybe you shouldn't expect him to," he sniffs. "He's not a doctor."

Businessmen are not doctors, declares Reinstein, and doctors are not businessmen. And yet the worlds of business and medicine, which seem so awkwardly merged, have in the case of Lasik Vision still produced something remarkable. Despite the ungodly amount of litigation, both medical and corporate, that now swirls around it, the company has become, in Sutton's words, "a huge machine that pumps out 35,000 eyes a quarter." Sutton, having recovered his CEO's mantle and become chairman of the Lasik board, now operates on very few of them.

Lasik is still financially fragile compared to TLC -- "They've got $150 million in the bank," says James Watson, "Lasik Vision has basically none" -- but in the last few months, it has surpassed its archrival in the number of procedures it performs, despite having roughly half the number of clinics.

The refractive surgery industry as a whole is mired in the ugly price war initiated by Lasik Vision, with competitors across the continent slashing fees, incurring losses and watching their share values tumble. Lasik Vision's own stock has slid from a high of more than $6 in April, 1999, to a 10th of that in December, 2000. It looks like an industry ripe for consolidation.

Still, you have to hand it to Henderson, says Reinstein. "He's an amazing guy. I learned a lot from him." In fact, Reinstein has become a principal in another company on the side, to build and market the ultrasound scanner, so that doctors can measure the cornea before they cut. "Call me a visionary, but frankly it's pretty damn obvious," says Reinstein, already a salesman.

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