It's A Wonderful Herbalife

For CEO Mark Hughes, anyway. But investors are steamed, and the lawsuits are piling up

Mark Hughes strides onto the stage at the Orlando Convention Center. Before him is a crowd of some 40,000 wildly cheering fans. Broad-jawed and impeccably groomed, the 43-year-old CEO of Herbalife International Inc. soon has the throng on their feet as he launches into an hour-long tale of how his success was born of tragedy: the death of his mother from a diet pill overdose. "I decided I would spend the rest of my life helping people lose weight and improve their health," he booms. With the fervor of a tent preacher, Hughes goes on to detail how, as a 19-year-old high school dropout, he started out as a door-to-door salesman, making $300 a month but soon wound up becoming a millionaire.

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