DENNIS HAYES WROTE THE book on computer modems: By the mid-1980s, his privately held and ultrasecretive Hayes Microcomputer Products dominated its market, raking in better than $150 million annually. Hayes rarely discussed his company's performance--until Nov. 15, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. What happened? Hayes was slow to respond to clones and low-priced rivals. Then, production problems choked output, leaving the company, based in Norcross, Ga., inventory-laden and cash-strapped. "As late as [Nov. 14] I thought we would be able to obtain short-term financing to avoid this," he admits. But an appeal to Hayes's bank fell flat.

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