San Diego Business Journal Avanir Coverage Is Off-Balance


I am a large shareholder in Avanir Pharmaceuticals (over 85,000 shares), and I was quite surprised, actually bothered/baffled to read your article (San Diego Business Journal, Nov. 21, "S.D. Biotech's Shareholders Question Firm's Candor on Drug").

It seems kind of odd that you would write a story on Avanir with the basis being a few of the message board bashers and their (negative) point of view on the company. After all, message boards are filled with anonymous postings by random people.

We do not know their true motives. Some companies have even sued posters/bashers over malicious postings and harmful intent. I do not understand why would you give these message board posters such creditability and legitimacy.

What if they had short positions and relentlessly posted negative statements and opinions with the hope of driving the stock price down? Is that fair then for you to take their position and highlight it as the prevailing thinking of the masses?

Yes, there have been some FDA delays and a significant recent change in leadership. However, if you wanted to write a balanced story, why did you not obtain or offer a counter opinion of someone from AstraZeneca or Novartis, who just this year have both signed multimillion-dollar development deals with Avanir?

Or how about contacting some of the large institutional shareholders: Orbimed/Jonathan Silverstein (nearly 9 million shares) or JP Morgan (nearly 6 million shares) and find out why they have made such large investments in Avanir and continue to add to their positions? After all, these two institutions have nearly 15 million shares combined. Do they seem worried or bothered by this so-called mistrust that the bashers state and you highlight? Maybe they (or the others that make up the 36 percent plus institutional ownership) could shed some light on why they maintain their positions in the company in spite of the supposed unhappiness and complaints of the few.

Perhaps next time, you can write a more balanced story.

Rick Sax
Los Angeles

No Love Lost for Lamont Ewell


Great news! We are finally rid of one of the worst city managers in our city's checkered history. Lamont Ewell is quitting.

The funny part is that he has a new job as city manager of Santa Monica, a suburb of Los Angeles with a population 1/15th the size of San Diego, and the left-wing dolts there are going to pay him a higher salary than we paid him in San Diego! Ewell made about $220,000 a year as San Diego city manager, and now Santa Monica is going to pay him $245,000.

It seems this upward movement by Ewell is a new twist on the "bigger fool" theory of economics, heretofore applied only to the speculative investment mentality. It seems that no matter how bad a job a government bureaucrat does, there's always some other jurisdiction willing to hire him or her at a higher salary with less responsibility.

Lamont Ewell continued the recent city manager tradition of hurting the San Diego taxpayer. First Jack McGrory set the standard with pro sports subsidies, along with underfunded increases in pensions. Then Michael Uberuaga carried forward the McGrory agenda before unceremoniously resigning.

Ewell came to our fair city as an assistant city manager in January 2001. Surely he was knowledgeable of the effort in 2002 to further underfund employee pensions.

In particular, he should have been aware of the deal that gave key labor union officials massive increases in their personal pensions in exchange for their agreement to hide the underfunding of the pension system.

When Carl DeMaio did his study of our city government and came up with 200-plus possible ways the city could increase efficiency or reduce cost, Ewell dismissed all these recommendations, confidently informing the city politicians that he had things well in hand. Well, he didn't.

I was asked to name a single positive thing that Ewell did while city manager. Aside from resigning from office, I couldn't come up with anything he did that benefited the citizens of San Diego.

But we may not have seen the last of Lamont Ewell. The FBI and other agencies are still deep in their investigation of our city government and its leaders. Mr. Ewell may indeed return to San Diego to face that music, along with others involved in the city's past deals. We shall see.

Richard Rider
Scripps Ranch