Sugarman Spent $500,000 in a Losing Fight Against a $100,000 FTC Fine

(p. A12) Though many of his wackier ideas bombed, Mr. Sugarman came up with a big winner now and then, including pocket calculators in the early 1970s and his BluBlocker sunglasses, designed to filter out ultraviolet and blue light waves, starting in the 1980s.

. . .

Trouble came in 1979 when the Federal Trade Commission accused him of violating a rule requiring firms to send out mail-order items promptly or notify customers of delays. Mr. Sugarman said the delays were caused by blizzards and a computer breakdown. The FTC proposed a $100,000 fine.

Mr. Sugarman counterattacked with a pamphlet, “The Monster That Eats Business,” an indictment of the FTC illustrated with cartoons in the style of Mad magazine. He accused FTC officials of hounding him over trivial lapses. After six years of fighting, he agreed to a settlement requiring him to pay a fine of $115,000 over four years. Mr. Sugarman said he had spent $500,000 on legal fees and added that “we are completely innocent of the charges.”

The success of BluBlocker sunglasses dug him out of that hole. Mr. Sugarman had a home on Maui, where he published a weekly newspaper. He flew small airplanes. He drove a Ferrari Testarossa. He looked dapper in his BluBlockers.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Marketing Guru Survived His Flops and Found Hits.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 2, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 29, 2022, and has the title “Marketing Maverick Survived Flops, Found Hits.”)

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