A major Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) distributor was found dead on Sunday in what the New York Post calls an “apparent suicide.” John Peterson, a 58 year old Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) salesman who was at the top of the Multi Level Marketing Company’s pyramid was found in a vehicle outside of his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
According to police spokesperson Ray Birch, Peterson was killed by a single gunshot wound. An initial investigation indicated that the injury was self inflicted. The New York Post said that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) refused to comment on “private family matters.” The company circulated a memo to distributors which said Peterson “passed away suddenly, following a tragic accident at his home.”
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The New York Post article on Peterson’s death described the salesman as “picture-perfect,” and “living the Herbalife dream.” The piece describes Peterson as living a “lavish lifestyle,” with multiple homes, expensive vacations and private aircraft.
Peterson was named Herbalife’s top distributor ten times in his tenure at the company. He had been working with the company since he left the real estate business in Houston, Texas in the early 1980s.
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) came to light in the investment world in a big way last December when veteran hedge fund manager Bill Ackman announced he was shorting the company, and called it a pyramid scheme. That short hasn’t gone well, and shares in the company have risen by more than 90% since the start of 2013.
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) has been criticized for advertising the kind of income that people like Peterson were earning as an incentive to get distributors to buy its product. The structure of the company meant that very few of its distributors were able to earn that kind of money however, and that has led the company to be described as a pyramid scheme.