[May 17 - 3:06 p.m.]
The newest twist in the battle over rights to a magical magnet technology has a well-known Memphis businessman taking on prolific Nashville inventor, pediatrician and neurologist Robert Holcomb in court.
Charles McVean of Memphis-based McVean Trading & Investments, one of the nation’s largest cattle brokers, has sued Vanderbilt University’s Dr. Holcomb in an effort to recover the $3.5 million investment he made between 1992 and 1995 in Dr. Holcomb’s technology that purportedly alters qualities of food through interaction between water and magnets.
McVean’s complaint in the Memphis Chancery Court comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed in federal bankruptcy court here in March by a group of investors behind Holcomb Healthcare Services (HHCS). While HHCS claimed rights to Dr. Holcomb’s technology as it pertains to the healing powers of magnets, McVean asked the Memphis court in his lawsuit to transfer HHCS’ ownership stake to him.
The new filing extends the list of investors who claim to have fared poorly in their dealings with Dr. Holcomb, who has been involved in the development and funding of numerous ventures.
NashvillePost.com understands that Dr. Holcomb is currently working on a technology that reduces emissions in motor vehicles, while traveling between laboratories in Alabama, offices in New York and New Zealand.
His spokesman Paul Touchton told NashvillePost.com on Friday that “we have not been served” papers and that he believes the technologies mentioned in McVean’s lawsuit differ from those currently under development.
While HHCS is not a defendant in McVean’s complaint, it alleges that HHCS co-founder John Townsend of Memphis, a college acquaintance of McVean, conspired with Dr. Holcomb to defraud McVean of his investment.
McVean claimed that he had hired Townsend in 1992 to work on water- and food-related ventures, but unbeknownst to McVean, Townsend became interested in having a stake of his own in Dr. Holcomb’s scientific projects.
Townsend’s spokesman Van Morgan, interim executive director of the University of North Alabama Foundation, said HHCS was aware that McVean’s claim was based on his prior investment in Holcomb-related ventures. “We have initiated discussions with his lawyers to determine the validity of hisclaims.”
In the complaint, McVean claims he was deceived by Townsend and Dr. Holcomb, who allegedly convinced McVean that the food enhancing technology was ready to be commercialized, while in fact it was not. According to the complaint, the duo intended to use McVean’s investment for developing the MagnaBlock technology, which involves magnets and water to alleviate physical pain in humans, in which technology McVean didn’t have interest.
However, the complaint alleges that all subsequent incarnations of Dr. Holcomb’s work are related to the technology in which McVean had initially invested in 1992.
Among other unusual details of the lawsuit, McVean alleged that in 1994, Dr. Holcomb tried to demonstrate to McDonald’s Corp. his technology’s ability to increase the size of hamburger buns.
The lawsuit mentions also that in 2001, Dr. Holcomb “tapped the support of Vanderbilt University, through key employees Dr. Harry Jacobson and Mr. George M. “Mick” Stadler to assist in exploiting the charged particle technology.” The lawsuit claims also that Holcomb, Vanderbilt University Technology Center and various other individuals affiliated with the university share the ownership of that technology in companies domiciled in the Isle of Man. A Vanderbilt University spokesman declined to comment on the matter to NashvillePost.com.
Attorney Paul Ney of Nashville law firm Trauger, Ney & Tuke represents McVean. The defendants have not yet filed a response to the complaint.